audience

Advice From The Editors: Avoid These Writing Mistakes

If you've been wondering what makes for great business writing, you're in luck! Based on feedback from the Signifiers Facebook Group, we're focusing on writing tips all month long. But before we talk about how to write an enticing and effective blog post, website, or social media, let's first chat about common writing mistakes. 

I don't know about you, but I see errors on professional websites, blogs, social media, and even national commercials almost daily. And, as someone who can spot them, it makes the brand seem more amateur to me, especially when it's a large company. That's definitely not what I want for your organization. 

So, to kick things off, I asked a few of my favorite #girlboss editors to explain some common writing mistakes, which will allow you to spot any weaknesses you may have, and improve them. (Basically, here's how you can up your writing game in just a few minutes!) Any corrections you can catch now may cause you to retain customers and donors in the future.

Advice From the Editors: Avoid These Common Business Writing Mistakes

Audience

Sara Shelton:

My biggest tip for any and all writers would be to remember your audience. If you don’t know who you’re writing to, don’t start writing until you figure that out! Identify your primary audience and then write with them in mind. Read everything back through the lens of that audience and ask yourself if it makes sense just for them. Did it communicate specifically to that audience?

As an editor, one the biggest content mistakes I find myself having to correct is a lack of focus on an audience. It’s much easier to make a clear point and deliver a direct message to one, specific audience. When a writer or brand doesn’t know who they’re trying to communicate to, clarity and messaging gets lost and mixed up pretty quickly!

 

Grammar, Punctuation, Spelling, and Related Nonsense

Afton Phillips:

The Oxford Comma Debate

To add the third comma, or not to add the third comma. That is the question. A REAL BIG pet peeve of mine when editing is inconsistent commas. The Oxford comma is the last comma in a list of three or more items just before the "and" or "or." For example, “Johnny, April, and Samantha drove to the store to get Tombstone frozen pizza, which as we all know, is the best kind of pizza.” The comma after "April" is the Oxford comma.

The reason this matters is that sometimes the meaning of the sentence can be misconstrued without the comma. In the above example, it might otherwise seem like we’re telling Johnny that April and Samantha went to get delicious pizza without him, which is very rude. Without the Oxford comma, the last two subjects can sometimes be grouped together separately, leaving the first guy all alone, hungry, and wishing he had pizza. So, my humble opinion is to be kind and add the Oxford comma.

There are a lot of opinions on this topic, but no matter where you fall, my one piece of advice is be consistent. Whether you want to use it or not, whenever you have a list of three or more, make sure you either always or never use your Oxford comma. This will make your editor's life much easier, and it will clear up any misunderstandings in your text by your willy-nilly use of punctuation.

 

Jill Turner:

The number one mistake I have corrected lately (and so many times) is no comma before "and" (or any other conjunction) when marrying two sentences that could stand on their own. For example: Kristi Porter is a friend of mine. She is a talented writer. If I put those two sentences together, I have to say, "Kristi Porter is a friend of mine, and she is a talented writer."

A second thing that bothers me is the very popular use of "based off." A base is something you put something else ON. A base is a launching pad, a setting place. You can only base something ON something else.

A resource Jill recommends:

 

I will also add two of my own here:

First, an ampersand, or the famous "&" character, should not be placed in the middle of a sentence. I think this probably became more popular when people started writing like they text (note: me shaking my head and sighing). Use it for titles, names, and things like that, but if you're using it in a sentence because typing two more characters for "and" is a bit much for you, rethink it. It just leaves me feeling that whatever is written is unprofessional or sloppy. And it drives me insane to see large businesses who can afford proofreaders make this mistake.

Second, and somewhat related, is the use of single and double quotes. I still hold true to what I was taught in school: use double quotes every dang time, unless you are quoting someone within a set of quotes. For example: "I turned to look at a bewildered Samantha who said, 'Oh, no, she didn't!' and then we both burst out laughing."

That latter mention is the only time I believe a single quote should be used. And I really enjoyed this funny, tirade on the subject. Again, I think this leads back to texting being the death of proper writing. (Call me old, I don't care!) Then again, sometime these mistakes keep me in business, so there's that...

Resources I recommend:

  • I admit to Googling these questions now and again, but I only get my answers from reputable sources like AP Stylebook, Grammarly, and Grammar Girl, which you'll also see noted below.

  • Make friends with editors, ha! I'll also admit to texting some of these ladies questions from time-to-time.

  • If you have the budget, hire a proofreader. It may not seem like it should be at the top of your list, but remember, everything you say (including how you say it) conveys something about your organization. If you're asking people to buy something from you, or donate to your organization, you'd better make sure that you look and sound professional. Personally, if I see a lot of errors in a website, email, blog, or social media, that's not where I'm going to send my money.

 

Style

Crystal Chiang:

When writing, nothing is more often overlooked or more impactful than tension. Tension helps the reader answer the question, “why do I care?”. It moves them to feel something, to engage.

The problem is that no one really likes tension, not even the author. We want it to be relieved. We want the reader to know that we know the answer to the questions we’re asking. We want to stop feeling the tension, so we resolve it to quickly. And in doing so, we unknowingly sabotage ourselves.

The truth is, there’s a lot of content out there and our time is limited. So helping a reader know why this topic matters to them is key if we want them to stick around.

A resource Crystal recommends:

 

Leigh Harper:

Don't fall into the trap of foregoing correctness for the sake of being catchy or memorable. Trust me, you'll be remembered—but not for the reasons you'd like! Creativity is great, but keep it professional by using proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

Playing off of words is welcomed (i.e. naming a boutique "Sew In Style"), but there's no need to get sloppy ("Sew 'N Style" or worse, "Sew-N-Style"). You'll be hurting yourself by appearing amateur. Plus, deviating from traditional spelling, punctuation, or grammar opens the door wide open for vendors, donors, and customers to misspell or confuse your brand. Naming an event, product, or campaign? You guessed it. Same rules apply in order to put your best foot forward.

Resources Leigh recommends:

 

A Little of This, A Little of That

Jennifer Bradley Franklin:

Effective writing is the foundation of successful messaging—in public relations and beyond. It can communicate the strengths of a brand to virtually any targeted audience, convert skeptics into evangelists, and it can make the journalist receiving it say, “Yes! I want to write a story about that!” Bad, boring, or unclear writing will make many people ignore the potentially terrific information you have to share.

What Makes Bad Writing?

  • Too much "puffery" such as: "It will be a fun-filled evening for the entire family, with each hilarious performance starting promptly at 8 p.m.”

  • Empty/meaningless language: there is, amazing, actually, basically, really, charming, fantastic, wonderful, etc. Use concrete adjectives that convey what you want to say.

  • Cramming in too many big words, just for the sake of, well, using big words.

  • Being unclear. Don’t make assumptions about your reader’s knowledge of a subject.

What Makes Good Writing?

  • Master the basics (grammar, structure, format) and then build in personality and “punch” from that strong foundation.

  • Write for clarity. Read your work with a critical eye, asking the question, “If I weren’t close to this project, would this paragraph make sense?”

  • Be concise, but include interesting details that entice the recipient to read on. Think like a journalist.

Resources Jennifer recommends:

  • Grammarly

  • "In general, I think the best way to become a better writer is to be a voracious reader. Reading good writing hones those skills!"

 

Jennifer Wilder:

I have two pieces of advice. First, no matter how well you write, you can still make spelling errors on words like here and hear, or they're and their, or your and you're. Often, these spelling errors elude us even after reading it twice. That's why it's important to have a second set of eyes read your article. This person could be your spouse, your business partner, a professional editor, or a virtual assistant. The second person will often catch things that you didn't.

If you're unable to locate someone to read things twice, then read it yourself, out loud, a third time. Pretend that you are reading it to someone who is looking over your shoulder at the document. You'll likely find that spelling errors jump out at you when taking this perspective.

Second, write as if your article or communication was going to be read by a group of fifth-grade students. Are your ideas clearly thought out and linked together? Are your sentences less than 20 words? Check to make sure you limit the use of pronouns or referring words. Mix in the proper names of things among those referring pronouns to ensure that readers follow your thought process through complex ideas about multiple subject matters.

Resources Jen recommends:

 

Patti Townley-Covert:

  • If a nonprofit does not have an experienced communications department, I highly recommend they hire someone to come in and do a seminar about writing tips. (Or if you have someone experienced, it's worth making the time for that person to share writing info with whatever staff personnel might write for the organization. It's amazing how few editors/marketing people/human resources personnel and others have any kind of training in effective communications. The authors I worked with at a nonprofit hated the writing/editorial process until I did a two-hour seminar correcting some misperceptions that even those designated as editors had. Articles/books/brochures and donor letters became far more engaging as a result. It's well-worth the cost.

  • Ledes (leads) should hook the reader into the material. Using a story, an outrageous or little known fact, or other compelling approaches will help readers take time to read the rest.

  • Writing is a team sport. It takes good communication and working together to get high-quality documents. Too many times authors and editors do not explain problems, they just try to fix them in isolation. That does not work well.

  • The worst problem I see, even with experienced writers, is passive or boring verbs—were, was, are, have, is. Verbs should be powerful, action words. That's fine for a first draft, but then substitute action words.

  • Another problem is over-using the word "I" in your writing. The article/missive/web piece is not about "you." Keep it focused on the audience, even when describing how you feel about it.

  • That said, when you're writing—just write. Let the words flow. Then go back and edit. The two processes use opposite sides of the brain, and trying to edit as you go makes a writer miserable. That was the number one reason the authors I worked with hated the process. They were trying to be creative and analytical at the same time.

 

Great information, right? These are smart, successful women who know their stuff. Take my advice: take their advice! These writing mistakes may be common, but they're easy to fix. Make these changes, and pretty soon, you'll be a more powerful writer who can help others rally around your cause.

And let us know in the comments which tips were most helpful for you!

 

Read the other posts in this series:



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These common writing mistakes could be costing your nonprofit or social enterprise customers and donors! Listen to what our favorite editors had to say.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


How to Write Press Releases and Gain Exposure

As we’ve been learning lately, public relations is pretty essential for your business, especially if it’s a small business. People need to know what you’re doing and why they should care. And they can’t know until you tell them! So, how can you get your message out simply, effectively, and widely? Press releases.

Press releases are powerful marketing tools. If done correctly and distributed well, they can make a huge difference and boost your business tremendously. They are a way to get your name out to potential donors, partners, sponsors, and customers. They add to the credibility of your social enterprise or nonprofit and raise awareness for what you are doing.

Of course, writing press releases may be something you never thought to do, let alone how to do it. Don’t be intimidated! Follow these step-by-step guidelines and tips and you’ll be ready to showcase whatever you have to offer to the public—which is a lot!

First off, let’s talk about how to structure these babies. This is important, so take note!

caffeine-coffee-cup-891674.jpg

Your headline should be short, sweet, to the point, and grab your audience’s attention immediately.

This is pretty much true for any headline out there, as you probably know. No one is going to choose to read something that has a weak, boring, or vague headline. This is arguably the most important part of your press release, because not only does this have to grab the public, it has to grab the journalist or the publication you want to help you distribute the release. If it doesn’t, it’s going straight into their trash. So make it good!

Think about who you’re trying to appeal to and cater it to them. You want to make it stand out and be captivating, but also capture the point of your release. Choose your words wisely and sparingly. Use strong words. Emotional words are beneficial to draw someone in and make them want to read more. Here’s a list of different emotional words you can use in your headline to evoke whatever action or feeling you need to. 

Kristi also showed me an amazing tool that analyzes and grades your headline. It shows you exactly what you need to adjust to make it better and more effective. It’s fantastic. I find it’s much easier to write the entire thing first and then develop the headline, but it’s all preference! You can also add a sub-header with a bit more details if you think it’s absolutely necessary.

Now let’s move onto the juicy stuff…

 

Your first paragraph should contain your most important information and every detail your audience needs to know.

Don’t make people search for the point because they won’t. You need to make the point very clear and right off the bat. This is the time to give the who, what, when, where, why, and how. All details need to be clear and concise. What are you doing? Why is it important? Why should we care?

Set the scene for whatever it is you’re announcing. Don’t add any extra fluff. People can tell if you’re going around in circles or explaining something in five sentences when it could’ve been explained in one.

It’s also a good idea to have someone read this for you before you release it (really, they should read the entire thing, but especially this and the headline). If they can’t answer those questions when they’re done, you have more work to do.  

In your next few paragraphs, you can include relevant and important quotes from relevant and important people only.

The body of your press release after your first paragraph should all just be support, but don’t get fluffy. Still keep it all short, sweet, and relevant to your main point. You don’t need quotes necessarily, but a one or two good ones can strengthen your narrative and make it interesting and credible. So use reliable sources!

I’m talking experts here—actual knowledgeable people. Don’t use a quote from your friend who’s only social media knowledge comes from her own personal Instagram use. Get a quote from a social media manager or specialist at a major company. They need to be powerful.

Focus these quotes around whatever message you’re trying to convey, too. It all needs to lead and connect to the same place. Don’t lead your audience on a wild goose chase for the point.

Remember these are still optional. Only use quotes if they strengthen your release and message. If you do use quotes, I would advise to only use one to three max in your press release. We’re going for quality over quantity here, so don’t get caught up in worrying about the length. Two pages maximum for this entire thing, preferably one.

If you don't use quotes or following your quotes, continue to expand on your first paragraph with supporting material. Start with what's most important or interesting, and work your way down. You only need a couple of paragraphs here.

 

In your last paragraph, you can provide some background information on your company and whatever it is you’re trying to spread the word about.

The least important information goes here, obviously. These are just some additional details that could be useful to people, but that won’t kill them to miss. You still want to only add what will strengthen your release.

You can include how the product/website/fundraiser/etc. was developed and how it will impact the future, if relevant. You can highlight additional resources you may have used or a website for purchases or more information. Just make sure you’re (say it with me now!) not adding fluff just to fill up the page.

 

Last but not least, your boilerplate is the very last component of your press release.

What is a boilerplate? In press releases, it’s a small, short paragraph that summarizes and tells the readers about your business. Think of it as a bio for your company. This should be the same for every press release. You will write this once and just tack it on the end of every one. Sounds easy, but don’t take it too lightly. It’s still important.

Keep this clear and straightforward, just a few sentences. Tell your readers who you are and what you do. It supports your credibility and can also boost your visibility on the web if you use key phrases, so make it count.

You also want to link to your website or other important platform in your boilerplate. For example, your last sentence could be, “For more information, visit: (insert your link here).” You should also include your contact information.

That’s the meat of your press release. Here are the other details you should include in formatting:

  • Your company letterhead and logo at the very top of the page

  • Underneath that, you should write “NEWS RELEASE” in bold on the left side of the page, the date under that, and “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE” underneath that

  • On the right side of the page you should include your information. Name, title, phone number, and email

  • The headline should come next on it’s own line, then the sub-header if you have one, then a space before the body of your release

  • In the first line before you start your first paragraph you should include a dateline in AP format. You can find how to correctly write a dateline here

  • If your release extends past one page, write “- more -” at the end of the first page

  • Use pound signs # # # # (yes, I said pound signs not hashtags! Am I really a Millennial?) to indicate the end of your press release.

Here’s a good, simple visual on all of that information:

So, now that you know how to format and write your press release, how do you distribute it and when? There’s no real rule here, but...

 

You should only try to distribute a press release when you have something actually important and newsworthy to share!

Some examples of things that are legitimately newsworthy are events, fundraisers, new product launches, product updates, website launches, or awards. It has to be meaningful, and not just to you but to the public.

In terms of how you should release it, you should start by posting it on your website, blog, and all social media platforms. You should also email it to local news publications and specific journalists. Do some research to find these. You want to send it to people and publications who cover your specific industry. Relevance is key!

Here are a few online press release distribution sites to help you get started.

See, not too scary, right? You got this! I promise you, once you get it down, you’ll have it down forever, and you’ll gain so much more exposure for your business. Come back next week to learn more about how to build and form relationships with the media—more super important tips to grow your business and spread your mission!

 

Read all the posts in this PR series:


Megan Westbrook

Megan Westbrook holds a B.A. in journalism with a focus in public relations and a minor in Spanish from Georgia State University. An aspiring writer, her interests reside in blogging, social media, content creation, design, and photography. She is also a passionate social justice advocate and interested in nonprofit or cause-focused work. Megan is currently a receptionist at Servcorp in Atlanta, Georgia. 



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How to Write Press Releases and Gain Exposure

Kristi Porter, Founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.

8 Ways You're Sabotaging Your Launches (And How to Fix Them!)

Every launch is a big deal. It takes your valuable time and resources, not to mention oodles of effort. So, whether it's the launch of a new website, a book, a campaign, an event, or a product, it needs to get the job done. After all, you don't have time to waste. I know this because I know many others like you, and you've got too much on your plate for missed opportunities.

But what happens when a launch is just okay? Or maybe it's good, but it wasn't as good as you'd hoped. Or, sadly, what if it flops? (Even successful launches have room for improvement.)

No matter which of these situations you find yourself in, I've observed a number reasons throughout my career in marketing, PR, and events (among other things) that may be causing you to unconsciously sabotage your launches. I'll touch on eight of them here. But don't worry, there is hope! I'll also show you how to fix them so that your next launch is your best yet.

(PSST—This is part of a series on launches. View Part 2 and Part 3.)

8 Ways You're Sabotaging Your Launches (And How to Fix Them!)

1. Not Having a Launch Strategy

This is probably the biggest issue I see. From annual events to one-time launches, many organizations don't have a launch strategy in place. The launch is done because it's that time of year, or someone told you it needs to be done, or your visionary leader had another great idea.

None of those are inherently bad reasons, but if you don't know how to integrate them into what you're doing, you'll never ensure success. 

I like to think of launches like a bridge because they should have connection points on either side. This means, you figure out how what you're already doing leads into them, and how to connect people to what you regularly do after they're over. They should never "stand alone" because you'll either confuse your audience by this new thing, or not give them any reason to stay connected to you.

Additionally, you need a plan. It's a bad idea to just do whatever task comes to mind each day, or tackle what seems urgent at the time. This means nothing you do is building on each other, and you'll only ever feel scattered as you work on the launch. Yuck, no one wants that.

The fix: While I don't have time to go into great detail here (and could talk about it for hours), the biggest and best action step I can give you is to ask yourself what you want attendees or participants to do after the launch. Then make sure you communicate that to them and provide easy solutions to make it happen. Launches are short-term, and there's a lot of relationship that can happen after they're over. Having a strategy in place offers you the best chance at turning interest into engagement.

You can also check out my launch strategy guide, Promote With Purpose.

2. Not Changing Your Regular Promotion Schedule

It doesn't matter if your organization consists of you sitting at your kitchen table or an army of staffers, interns, and volunteers—launches require a lot of extra effort. This means that whatever you normally do for your promotion schedule has to likely be dramatically stepped up for a short time.

So, let's say you send a monthly newsletter, post on social media a few times per week, and write a blog twice per month. And that's already a challenge because of your other responsibilities. Here's the bad news: for a launch, you'll probably have to double that. Here's the good news: it doesn't have to be for long.

If you've been paying attention to social media, you know that those lovely, little things called algorithms are always changing. And this isn't always in your favor, sadly, especially without paying for it. So, you're going to have to fight harder for people's attention. And that means posting even more frequently.

And, unfortunately no, this doesn't mean you just post about your launch a bunch more and call it a day. You need to increase your content marketing strategy so that you can "sell" more without annoying your audience. If you don't increase your promotion schedule, or you only post a bunch more about what you want people to do for you, like buy or donate, you run the risk of no one seeing your message, or even losing fans.

The fix: Gear up, baby—it's go time! Make room in your calendar for the extra time you'll need to increase your promotional schedule. Or, even better, get help. And create a plan for what you're going to say and when, so that you're spreading out helpful, intriguing, or delightful content in between asking your audience to do something that benefits you.

 

3. Not Considering Your Audience

This may seem like an odd one to include, but it can easily happen when you've been doing the same event for a long time. In cases like these, we tend to do what we've always done, without giving it a lot of thought.

The problem here is that things can change over time. Maybe you hosted an event for people who knew your organization well, but now people attend who don't know you as well, or at all. Maybe you launched an awareness campaign years ago, but the issue is widely known now. Or maybe your previous fundraising goals just won't cut it with the new programs you want to include in your new budget, and you need to attract more people, or people with more money.

Without considering this aspect, you may be communicating incorrectly to your audience. Or you may even be drawing the wrong people.

The fix: Spend some time looking at the history of your launch, including examining the original purpose and those who have previously participated. Decide if it's still doing it's job, or if changes need to be made. When we don't continue innovating or evolving, something that was once successful may become mediocre.

4. Having Too Many, or Unclear, Calls to Action

This one is super hard! When we actually have the attention of potential customers or donors, we want to tell them all the things. We want them to buy or donate, join the email list, come to our next event, volunteer, and on, and on, and on. This is because there's so much to do—and it's all great! But the more you give people to do, the less they're probably going to do it. (Here's some sciencey stuff to back me up.)

Even when you have someone's attention, you likely only have it for a short time. So, it's important to not overwhelm them. Additionally, you don't want to make participation hard. Always lower the "barrier to entry" for taking your next step. 

  • Click a link to donate or buy.

  • Download a freebie.

  • Lend your name to the petition.

  • Refer a friend.

  • Share on social media.

  • Register at this link.

These are all quick and easy examples. Unless it's your mom or a super fan, giving them too many options just means you'll lose their attention even faster—and you may not get it back.

On the other hand, maybe your calls to action are unclear. You avoid being super promotional and salesy, which I totally understand, but that could mean your audience doesn't actually know what you want them to do. You can space out the hard "asks" between some softer ones, or work up to it, but you need to leave no interpretation for what action you want them to take.

The fix: Reexamine your process and communication. Ideally, make sure you're only asking them to do one, maybe two things if they're really easy, and double-check that the language is crystal clear. 

 

5. Not Having All Hands on Deck

Launches often fall on the shoulders of a couple of people, and that's okay. Sometimes there aren't any alternatives. But if this is a major initiative at your organization, everyone needs to have a hand in promotion. 

Even at small businesses, people tend to leave the communication efforts to the people working on the launch, as well as the official channels like the company's email and social media. After all, everyone has more than enough to do already, right? But if you think this way, just consider all the other promotional avenues you're missing out on. Everyone has different personal and professional networks they can talk to.

The fix: This post goes into more detail, but make it easy for people to talk about you. This includes internal and external relationships. Especially when we're referring to employees, stakeholders and boards, volunteers, interns, etc, everyone should be up-to-date about how they can help meet the launch goals. And even if you're a solopreneur, you should make sure that you're talking about the launch on both your personal and professional channels anyway. These cross-promotional efforts can give you twice the reach.

6. Not Promoting During and After the Launch

It's easy to think that the end of the launch is the end of the project, but that shouldn't be the case. Instead, you should use that momentum for even greater results, both now and later.

I've worked on an untold number of events over the years, so this is where I see it happen most often. Too many people promote events before-hand, and then the day/night of, don't promote much at all, and even less after, unless it's just to slap a Facebook album up on their page. This is a shame, because it's another opportunity to set up your next event while you have people's attention.

Can you live Tweet or hop on Facebook Live, give people who couldn't attend the chance to see what they missed and make plans to be there in the future? Did you send out an email directly after the event to showcase the highlights, whether written or in video clips, and give links or a save the date for the next event? Have you considered send a press release to local or national media that detailed what took place, and what will happen in the future, to get greater exposure?

And outside of events, this strategy works for other launches as well. Those examples aren't exclusive to in-person events. Let's go back to that first item in this post and think about "what's next" for those who attended/participated, as well as those who are sad to miss out. Using the bridge analogy again, you can lead people where you want them to go with your organization.

It could even simply include thank you notes, following up with large donors and sponsors, or even a survey. All of these are additional "touch points" that allow you to build a deeper relationship with fans and potential fans. This long-term approaches leads to greater sustainability. 

The fix: You've probably heard that it's easier to go deeper with your current audience than it is to fine new ones, and that's absolutely true. You're already spending your time and energy on this launch, so don't miss every opportunity to nurture the relationship. Think of ways you can continue building on the launch, both during and after, to capitalize on the effort you're already putting out. It will likely also make the next launch better.

 

7. Not Taking Time to Evaluate

There are undoubtedly tasks, projects, meetings, and obligations piling up while you're working on your launch. So, it's kind of a big relief when it's over. And you might take some time to celebrate, but it's short-lived because there's something else that requires your attention.

You go-getters may even schedule a follow-up meeting to assess what went right and what went wrong. That's excellent, but set aside enough time to give this evaluation the attention it deserves. An hour before lunch probably won't get the job done when everyone is more concerned with what type of sandwich they're ordering over how next year could be better.

When you don't take the time to properly evaluate your launch, you're doomed to repeat the same mistakes. Heck, you may not even fully realize your mistakes. Ouch. This can lead to all kinds of problems, including spending money unnecessarily, which is probably all of our biggest fear.

The fix: Have people take notes before, during, and after the launch with their suggestions. Also, have them jot down, and voice, what went right. You need to be sure to celebrate the big and little things too. And, as mentioned above, schedule plenty of time for a recap meeting. As time passes, memories get cloudy, so this should happen soon after the launch. Finally, get clear on your action steps, and document them well for the next time.

 

8. Not Getting Extra Help

Um, have we talked about how much hard work it takes to pull off a launch? #understatement

Whether you're flying solo or have a support team, you may need additional help with your launch. It can get overwhelming really fast, especially if you wear multiple hats. I've heard too many stories that include words like, "I meant to do that, but I didn't have time," or, "Oh, I completely forgot," or even, "I have no idea how to do that." 

Yikes, that's not what you want from your launch experience! If you know you won't be able to do it all, don't have the necessary experience, or even if you find out during the process that you can't do it all, don't be afraid to ask for help. I realize it may cost more time or money, but let's face it, your BIG launch is at stake here. This is a short-term investment that could pay off big in the long run.

The fix: Not hard to figure this one out. You may have to be creative in your approach, but there is usually a solution not far away. Think interns, volunteers, co-workers, bartering, and of course, hire if you need to. People like me are available to work on projects, meaning we won't stick around for office pizza parties if you don't want us to.

Your launch is really important, so do everything you can to make it a success.

 

(PSST—This is part of a series on launches. View Part 2 and Part 3. Ready to go to the next level? Check out my launch strategy guide, Promote With Purpose.)



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Every launch is a big deal. It takes your valuable time, resources, and oodles of effort. So, whether it's the launch of a new website, a book, a campaign, an event, or a product, it needs to get the job done. However, there are at least eight reasons that you may be unconsciously sabotage your launches. But I'll show you how to fix them so that your next launch is your best yet.

Kristi Porter, founder at www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


Voice Can Make All the Difference

The TV murmured along in the background as I cleaned house until I heard what I thought was the voice of a child speaking about farm-to-table concepts that seemed much older than the age I perceived coming through the TV speakers. It seemed odd. I was thrown off, and completely missed the message from the advertising restaurant.

When I saw the commercial later, I was still too distracted because of the disconnect between the voice and the message to know what the company was trying to tell me, the consumer.

In an age when video is moving to dominate media consumption—not only TV and streaming services, but across social media channels and websites—the right voice to explain, to inform, to appeal, to sell, and to inspire makes a difference in whether someone donates or buys, or whether someone passes you by.

Likewise audio prompts within your organization’s phone systems, in your office environments, and in radio advertising can make a difference in how a consumer or donor experiences what you have to offer . . . or doesn’t.

In an age when video is moving to dominate media consumption—not only TV and streaming services, but across social media channels—the right voice to explain, to inform, to appeal, to sell, and to inspire makes a difference in whether someone buys, or whether someone passes you by.

Recently, as I boarded an elevator from a parking garage to a major metropolitan arts facility, I heard the burdened and disdainful voice of a man “welcome” me, and routinely utter the names of the sophisticated, creative, and lively venues within this arts complex. It was quite a juxtaposition. There I was about to experience an electric, creative atmosphere, and the voice welcoming me sounded as though he was bored, sad, and depressed.

Whether realized or not by this company’s elevator occupants, his voice is creating an atmosphere for this facility—a downcast and disheartening atmosphere.

In truth, the voice you use to embody your organization's in video and audio representations is important. But what do you look for? How do you find a quality voice for your message? Here are four ideas to get you started:

1)   Audience

You’ve heard it before, “Know your audience.” As a business leader, you likely have already created an avatar, or profile, of your ideal customer. With this ideal man and/or woman in mind, write a script that sounds natural, conveys a clear message, and includes an action step. And once you have a decent draft, read it out loud to yourself. Are there any clunky words or phrases? Or are there any back-to-back sounds that are awkward? Revise the script until you have something that seems natural.

2)   Delivery

Depending on your audience, and the message of your script, you’ll want to think about delivery. Would you like it to sound warm and comforting, or are you looking for conversational, yet energetic? Think about the feelings you want to convey with this message. And think about those feelings in relationship to the wording and the message. Do they match? For example, in the elevator, the gentleman delivered the word welcome as if he were sad, when it should’ve sounded warm and friendly . . . in other words, the word welcome should’ve sounded welcoming. If you’re trying to convey an urgent message, one that you’d like customers to act on quickly, you don’t want a warm and welcoming delivery, but an energetic, lively, yet friendly delivery.

3)   Tone

More often than not, we can grasp an age range from someone based on the tone of his or her voice. A voice talent’s tone needs to match and be identifiable with the audience you’re trying to reach. In the farm-to-table restaurant commercial mentioned previously, the voice sounded like an early teen. Yet, the message of the commercial was focused on consciousness in food preparation, something few teenagers seem to be concerned with. A disconnect between the tone, the target audience, and the message won’t compel anyone to take action.

4)   Hire

It’s often easier to grab the admin assistant with the great phone voice, or the singing maintenance man for a quick “read through” of your outgoing message, but resist the urge. It’s not enough to have a nice voice. A quality voice talent must be able to tap into the audience your trying to reach with the feelings you want to convey, so that anyone who hears it will want to take action.

Your message is too important for it to sound like it’s being read from a handwritten notebook. With intentional script writing and the right voice, you’ll move beyond your customer or donor’s heads and into their hearts.


Jennifer Wilder is a social media professional who helps brands reach customers through online conversations. Over the last decade, she has worked with LifeWay Christian Resources, Leading The Way, The reThink Group/Orange, and The John Maxwell Company. Jen and her husband Nathan live in Kennesaw, Georgia, with their soon-to-be-Instagram-famous Chocolate Labrador Retriever, Copper.

Jennifer is available for freelance social media consulting and voiceover work.



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER: 

In an age when video is moving to dominate media consumption—not only TV and streaming services, but across  social media  channels and websites—the right voice to explain, to inform, to appeal, to sell, and to inspire makes a difference in whether someone donates or buys, or whether someone passes you by.

Kristi Porter, founder at www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.