How to help journalists give you free publicity

For small businesses — in fact, even for large ones — free publicity can be a golden ticket to name recognition, increased web site traffic, and more sales. But to get it, you have to make nice with journalists.

Take a look at this article from Jakob Nielsen that’s packed with really great tips on how to make the most of your web sites’s PR area. Don’t have a PR area? Read the article to find out why you should.

Watch your loaded language

Besides the terrible image quality (my fault — no proper camera nearby), what’s wrong with this ad for a Clarins free gift promotion at Sears?

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While it is nice that the promotion allows you to choose one of four different skin-care sets, the phrase “right to choose” is entirely inappropriate here.

Why? It’s loaded language. It’s a phrase that — like it or not — references a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion. That thought will enter the mind of almost every person who reads the ad. Perhaps no one told the ad writers at Sears that abortion isn’t an issue they should allude to in their copy.

I’m all for cheeky word play and clever pop-culture referencing. Done well, it can make an ad for a dull product sparkle. But make sure the cultural reference you make is appropriate, unless you’re specifically trying to stir up controversy.

 

 

 

Plummet 4 percent? I don’t think so…

I caught this headline on Reuter’s today:

Retailers’ holiday sales plummet 4 percent

Now, I’m sure that a 4 percent drop in sales is painful for retailers in these tough economic times. But sales can’t “plummet” 4 percent. Dip, drop, fall, slump, sure. But to plummet is “to drop sharply and abruptly” (Merriam-Webster), and 4 percent is just not that sharp a drop.

I’m not sure a granite hairdryer is a good idea

When editing corporate copy, I see a lot of simple mistakes that end up making the business sound pretty goofy. Here’s a typical example of a common mistake:

Suites have newly renovated bathrooms with granite counter tops and hairdryers.

The granite counter tops sound great, but those granite hairdryers are probably pretty heavy…

The problem here is that the adjective (granite) looks like it’s modifying both nouns (counter tops and hairdryers). The simplest way to solve this problem is to switch the sentence around:

Suites have newly renovated bathrooms with hairdryers and granite counter tops.

Are you scaring potential customers away by unwittingly threatening them with extra-heavy small appliances? A good editor can save you from embarrassing mistakes that cost you customers and leads.

I know it’s the Internet, but still…

I’ve said it before: I understand that the Internet is not a medium known for its focus on grammatical correctness. Still, you’d think a site claiming to offer job opportunities for freelance writers might try a little harder than most. That’s why this is a little distressing:

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I can almost forgive the wonky capitalization and inconsistent use of end punctuation. But a question with no question mark and a contraction with no apostrophe are really beyond reproach — never mind the missing hyphen.

This ad could have benefited from a once-over by a “natural born” editor. If you’re spending money on advertising, it only makes sense to invest in a quick proof-read to make sure you’re not embarrassed — or even driving potential customers away.

I know what it means, but what does it *say*?

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For years I drove past this sign every day on the bus, and it has always driven me crazy. I understand what it is supposed to mean. Making wine at this location will save you money. But what on earth is that second line supposed to say when you read it to yourself in your head: Saving dollars? Saving moneys? Savings?

I just don’t know, and that apostrophe just makes it all the more painful. If they really felt they needed that $ symbol, the most logical way to phrase it would have been the simplest: Save $

A freelance travel & lifestyle writer/editor in Vancouver, B.C.