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free advice

Maggie Bergin is a digital marketer and copy writer creating brand-aligned, creative, compelling digital content for her clients.

Check Your Website Copy Against These 4 RULES!

Maggie Bergin

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Keep it SIMPLE people! Sheesh.

I’m still surprised by how many websites (hello TECH companies!) don’t actually explain, in lay-person’s terms, what their company DOES. Here are three examples of website company descriptions I’ve come across recently. Guess what category of business they’re in and I’ll tell you if you guessed right below:

  1. “Empowering companies, employees, investors and institutions to make their aspirations a reality through the private market.”

  2. “A company dedicated to centralizing proprietary enterprise information”.

  3. “The most advanced engagement platform for professionals in offices.”

  • 1 is a like the Stock Market, but it allows you to invest in private tech companies that aren’t public yet.

  • 2 is…….honestly I have no idea! See if you can figure it out: http://onna.com/

  • 3 is an app that allows workers to reserve a conference room, order food and beverages or make office-related maintenance requests within a large company.

When crafting your website copy, assume your readers have NO IDEA what you do and they are all in 5th grade. A good website is clear to everyone reading it, not just to someone who looking for Drupal cloud providers (WHAT?). Copy that’s too technical reduces the quality of customers’ experience and it is likely to make them disengage, or worse, feel left out and angry. Overly technical copy is also terrible for SEO!

Here’s some more free web copy advice:

WATCH OUT FOR UNINTENDED AFFRONTS. If you’re a white guy who grew up in America, put a process in place where your copy is reviewed by a woman, several people of color, a LGBTQ person, a disabled person or ALL OF THE ABOVE. Admitting you need help is the first step in not doing a WHOOPSIE or worse for your company. If you don’t know any women of color, LGBTQ or disabled people, contact me and I can put you in touch.

BEWARE OF COPY THAT SOUNDS TOO GENERIC. It sends the message that your products are generic as well. Put a particular emphasis on personalizing the copy, making it more engaging and differentiating what you do from the rest of the marketplace.

BE CAREFUL NOT TO OVER PROMISE. High-claims in your marketing material sets you up to over-promise and under deliver. Saying that something you make is “in high demand” or “the most popular” is setting yourself up for an unhappy customer whose expectations were raised and is now feeling relatively disappointed.

Need help with your web or marketing copy? Contact me!

Can Your Brand Laugh At Itself?

Maggie Bergin

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If your brand can’t laugh at itself, you’re in trouble. When we build brands without imperfection built into the brand, we are choosing to NOT connect. When we build brands where a certain distance or facade is always present, we're choosing to NOT connect. In my B2B and B2C experience, connection is where the longest lasting, deepest and most satisfying customer relationships live. Facades are boring and EASY TO SPOT.

I was recently a guest on a podcast about the Marketing industry. And because the podcast is about the good, the bad and the ugly of Agency Life, the host asked me to share the worst client experience I’ve had. And I almost answered because it’s fun to tell stories about how other people suck and I don’t want to pretend everything is shiny-happy-sunny-all-the-time. But I didn’t want to talk shit about a client in public. Maybe it’s because I’m the daughter of a Canadian Librarian, but the thought of it made me feel kind of sick. So-in about 2 seconds-I considered my options, remembered I don’t mind being the butt of my own joke and told a story about a moment where I screwed up.

Here’s what happened: I finished a client’s web copy. I deposited their payment. My ego was strutting around the room, chest puffed out. I’d created amazing words! About a special person!! About the things that made her special! But while the copy might have looked ok in a word document, it didn’t translate to a formal website. The website was Cheerleader-y. The word equivalent of a smiley emoji waving pom poms. It didn’t connect because it wasn’t really her.

I apologized profusely and asked for the opportunity to re-write the copy for free. And now it’s GREAT because her true self, as opposed to my marketing idea about her true self, comes through loud and clear.

One of the GREATEST things about being in my 40s (there are approximately 40,000 great things about being in my 40s). I can receive feedback about my imperfections without getting angry or initiating a 3-day shame spiral. That kind of even handedness exists because I know I’m really good at what I do and I have the ability to hear requests as feedback, not a personal attack #hardwonknowledge DO YOU SEE WHERE I’M GOING WITH THIS?

Brands: KNOW THYSELF! Be the equivalent of a woman in her 40s. Because your potential customers are dying to find some BELONGING. And belonging is knowing who you are, telling YOUR story and never changing who you are for other people. That's vulnerable and that's what connects you to your clients and customers. Need some inspiration? Let’s talk!

Show Your Work

Maggie Bergin

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My favorite high school math teacher, before handing out a test, would remind us to "show our work" so he could maybe give us partial credit for what we did understand. Because even if you didn't get the answer right, he wanted to know how you tackled the problem and which pieces of the process you understood. Showing your work indicated what you ‘got’ and (maybe more importantly) where you strayed from the mark.

I rarely see brands doing this: showing their work. Far more often we see the end result, the pretty product photos. But I believe brands' most passionate potential customers are interested in seeing how you came through the process of creation. Why did you create X? What did you consider in its creation? What were you hoping to accomplish? What would success with this product look like to you and why does that mean success to you?

Human beings can learn facts through spreadsheets or bullet points, but they come to understand their world and their relationship to brands through stories. From an evolutionary perspective, it makes sense; PowerPoint has only been around for a couple decades, but we’ve been sitting around fire pits listening to stories for literally millennium. It’s in our blood to love and listen to people show their work. Stories and lessons learned speak to us on the cellular level.

Storytelling also fosters social understanding and teaches valuable social norms. And that's where the really juicy stuff is in 2019 and beyond. What are your brand's norms and values? What do you give a shit about and why? Because while I hold my truths to be self-evident, I have no idea what yours are. But I'm interested.

Story telling also pays valuable dividends to the storytellers themselves who receive community support and are recognized as a leader. When bits of information are flying, especially from brands, I believe the companies who SHOW THEIR WORK will stand out because even though it's a little harder than posting a pretty picture, it’s truer work, and it will connect your clients to your brand in a way that nothing else can.

Valuable social media content shows HOW you came to a products' end design. It tells WHY you do/make what you do/make. It explains WHAT social norms your company is built on. Show your work. Share stories to connect with your brand's biggest potential fans. #branding #brandbydesign #storiesmatter #socialcontent

Words, Words, Wonderful Words.

Maggie Bergin

“Can you think of any laws that give government the power to make decisions about the male body?”

This question was posed by US Senator Kamala Harris to US Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh. This beautiful, concise, open-ended question beats all other questions. This question wins at the game of questions. Like a deep inhale of oxygen among smog, this question quickly clears through the bramble to articulate the CENTRAL feminist critique of laws impeding a woman’s ability to make choices about her body: THE INEQUALITY.

There are no laws about vasectomies. Nobody pays attention to what happens to men’s bodies. Because no one cares. I don’t know who first wrote it, but it’s been said many times: if men could get pregnant, access to birth control and plan B and abortions would be written into the constitution.

Here’s why Senator Harris’ question wins at words:

  1. It’s succinct.

  2. It’s open-ended design facilitates reflection by the person hearing the question.

  3. It succinctly and deeply gets to the center of an argument, in this case the argument about PARITY under the law.

I doubt Senator Harris changed minds about choice, but man was it a gorgeous question to rally the base.

If you need help finding the right words, let’s talk!