How to Make Exceptional Communication Your Winning Difference

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I wrote this tagline: “Remarkable business begins with remarkable communication.” That was a bedrock principle for me when I was starting out as a marketer. I still find it a bedrock principle of marketing, particularly content-driven marketing. This week, we got into a When, a Why, and a What for the kind of exceptional, empathetic communication that builds great businesses. On Monday, Stefanie Flaxman shared her experience and advice on when to send article pitches and other “cold” (or at least not piping hot) requests by email. She also gives recommendations for when and how to follow up gracefully if you don’t hear back. Because email inboxes can be scary, scary places. On Tuesday, Loryn Cole explored why effective communication — with colleagues, employees, clients, or anyone else — is a lot like a growing garden. You can pull up […]

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What’s Really Broken in the ‘Content Marketing Playbook’

Sometimes it bums me out that we’ve become a culture of contrarians. Whether it’s Black Panther, 3D printing, or strawberry ice cream, there’s nothing so excellent that someone on the internet won’t tell you why you’re wrong for liking it. So sometimes it’s easy to miss the signals when a genuine problem does develop. And among the usual noise of “the thing you like sucks,” there’s been a fresh spate of articles on content marketing, talking about the “content marketing playbook” not working the way it used to. Unlike that guy who hated Black Panther (let’s face it, he was just wrong), there’s some substance to this. But it’s not something to panic over. In fact, it’s something to embrace. Does content marketing work like it used to? No. And this should come as a surprise to no one. If you aren’t familiar with Gartner’s Hype Cycle of Technology, you […]

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Why Clear Communication Mirrors a Growing Garden

If you work with a team or for clients, you probably wish you had better communication. Even with the best, most productive teams and client relationships, things always slip through the cracks. Meetings that should have been emails, back-and-forth IMs, long-overdue tasks that get ignored, and misunderstood intentions. In an ideal world, we’d all have exactly the right information at exactly the right time. But even with our arsenal of tools, including email, IM, project management platforms, and more, we never seem to be able to reach that information nirvana. I’ve been on several teams that struggled with communication — some remote, some in-person, some inherently dysfunctional, and others amazing — and I’ve realized that the root of the communication problems wasn’t about tools or processes at all. It was about mindset. You can’t just kill all of the weeds At the end of March, my husband and I bought […]

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When to Send Article Pitches (and Other Important Emails)

It feels good when you’ve done your research before pitching an article idea to an editor: You know the publication’s audience. You know your topic offers value in unique ways. You know the editor’s content preferences and pet peeves. But you’re not done yet. Although hitting the “send” button on your email seems like an inconsequential step in your article-pitching process, pause before you take that action. That moment of excited impatience could spoil all of the important research you’ve just performed. Caution: avoid these days of the week Have you ever suggested a fun activity to a friend, significant other, or family member when they’re in a bad mood … and they immediately decline? Although they typically would love your idea, you’ve asked them at a time when they don’t want to be bothered. I compare that experience to submitting an article pitch to an editor on a Friday […]

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11 Ways to Stay an Alert Copywriter and Content Marketer (If Taking a Nap Isn’t an Option)

Well, this week was anything but sugarcoated. We got right into it. How do you stay motivated to do great work when you’re burned out, bored, or busy? On Monday, Stefanie Flaxman shared what to do when your eyes are tired from more than 15 years of professional proofreading. The technique she teaches works just as well for any proofreader, no matter how long you’ve been at the error-catching game. On Tuesday, Nick Usborne outlined five ways to keep your copywriting skills fresh. Nick has been a copywriter for 40 years, so check out the post to discover how he stays interested in his craft. On Wednesday, Belinda Weaver dished out five excellent tips for anyone who has non-negotiable time constraints. Managing your time like a pro can transform any seemingly stressful situation into one that builds confidence in your work ethic. And you need a strong work ethic if […]

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5 Practical Time Management Tips for the Chronically Time-Poor

In 2009, I chucked my marketing job to become a freelance copywriter. I worked from home each day. I had a waitlist of clients and my business grew. Life was good. With a consistent stream of projects to complete, I thought I was under pressure, but looking back, I knew nothing. Ten years and two kids later, I know what it means to have constraints on my time. These days, I still write copy for clients. I also open my copywriting course twice a year. I have a private coaching membership program and regular one-on-one sessions. I publish a daily email about copywriting and co-host a copywriting podcast. Sounds like a lot, right? And I do it all with less than 12 hours of child-free time a week. Whether you’re running a business around family commitments or you want to do more in less time, so maybe (gasp) you don’t […]

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How to Keep Your Copywriting Skills Fresh

When I started out as a professional copywriter — exactly 40 years ago this year — I was full of energy and excitement. No surprise there. It was my first non-manual job. It paid crazy well compared to every other job I’d ever had. And I loved what I was doing. Forty years later, I still love what I’m doing. I’m still full of energy and excitement. And for the most part, I don’t really feel any older at all. In particular, I rarely get a sense that my copywriting skills are less than “fresh.” But sometimes the world does give me a little nudge Like the time I was introduced to a small group of young copywriters at a conference. They were polite and pleasant enough. But after a couple of minutes, I realized they were feeling a little uncomfortable with me standing there. And I thought: “OMG … […]

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What to Do When Your Eyes Are Tired from More than 15 Years of Professional Proofreading

Me: “Hey, Brain, it’s time to proofread!” My Brain: “We don’t want to.” Me: “But, Brain, this article isn’t complete until we proof it.” My Brain: “Our eyes are tired.” Me: “There might be a mistake I want to correct, or I might find ways to make the text even better.” My Brain: “We want to eat chocolate chips.” Me: “Braaain. I’m losing my patience.” My Brain: “Fine, that wasn’t entirely true. We want to eat cinnamon rolls.” I’ve proofread a lot on a regular basis over the last 15 years. And no matter how tired my eyes may be on any given day, every article we publish on Copyblogger gets a dedicated proofreading session. All content deserves to be reviewed by a bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed proofreader invigorated by catching errors. While my eyes are no longer bright and my tail is no longer bushy, I do have a technique that helps […]

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Sharpen Your Writing and Content Focus for Materially Better Results

Our culture glorifies being busy. But we don’t always glorify spending time on the right things. This week was about spending your time and effort intentionally. About getting more powerful results, without necessarily putting in a lot more hours. It’s not always easy to work on the right things over the familiar things, but it’s usually the way to make real progress. On Monday, Stefanie Flaxman set out to help you sharpen up your content by focusing on one slice of your audience — the ones who read and take action. On Tuesday, Brian Clark shared his most important 10 secrets to becoming a better writer. This one has multiple formats that you can print out or even embed on your own site. And on Wednesday, I talked about some of the ways you can repurpose your existing well-thought-out content into new formats to reach your audience in new ways […]

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How to Improve Audience Engagement Without Writing 10 Times More Content

The answer to, “How do I get more engagement, more traffic, more search engine authority, more sales,” or more of anything else of what you want is often: “Publish more content.” But there comes a point when creating more content is a recipe for flat-out exhaustion. I had a fun conversation with copywriter and teacher Belinda Weaver last week, which you can check out on the Copyblogger FM podcast: How Copywriting Teacher Belinda Weaver Reenergized Her Email List for Massive Engagement. She had a great archive of blog posts, but they weren’t really doing much for her business or her audience. Robert Bruce, in a site review over at Rainmaker Digital Services, gave her some advice: Take that content, turn it into an ultra-engaging email sequence, and load up your autoresponder. (For more details on that, give the podcast a listen — Belinda shares lots of the details that made […]

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10 Steps to Becoming a Better Writer [Free Poster]

Back in the sweltering summer of 2007, I got a bit crazy. I wanted to get across to people that becoming a better writer is not something a “10 Step” article can teach you. Yes, reading helps writers immensely, but when it comes down to it, you become a better writer by writing. Then, it occurred to me. Why not deliver that “10 Steps” post that everyone was hoping for as a way of hammering home the point? With that, the original 10 Steps to Becoming a Better Writer was born. It was an instant hit, and remains one of the most popular posts on Copyblogger. So, we decided to put it into a couple of additional formats. PDF Poster: You can now download the PDF version, suitable for hanging near your workspace when you need to see it most. Shareable Graphic: Or, if you’d prefer to publish the image […]

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Every Audience Has This in Common (Use It to Stay Hyper-Relevant)

It doesn’t matter if you create content about minimalism or motorcycles. Every audience has these three sub-groups: People who read your content. People who read and share your content. People who take action on the advice you provide in your content. The sub-groups aren’t mutually exclusive. For example, those who apply your advice to their own situations obviously read your content — and they might regularly share it as well. In order to continually appeal to the people who are most likely to become your clients and customers, though, let’s hold a magnifying glass up to the “take action” group. Add a sophistication filter So, what are you going to write about next? It seems like a straightforward question, but it’s often challenging to narrow down your ideas and pick one you feel good about. Here’s where you can use the “people who take action on the advice you provide […]

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Fire Up Your Creative Courage and Reach Your Audacious Goals

It’s a funny thing — so many of the most gifted and capable people wrestle the hardest with impostor syndrome and self-doubt. And often, the biggest barrier between you and your ambitious goals is your own head. This week, we offered resources to get your confidence kickstarted and your creative brain humming. On Monday, Stefanie Flaxman explored why the hardest working, most professional writers aren’t always the ones who jump into freelancing. (If this is you, you might be a lot better at it than you imagine.) On Tuesday, Pamela Wilson shared eight effective ways to bring powerful visual elements to your content — even if you don’t think of yourself as a “visual person.” This is a great way to add polish and impact to your work, and it’s easier than you think. And on Wednesday, I announced our new book club selection — Austin Kleon’s Keep Going. If […]

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Copyblogger Book Club: Stay Creatively Productive (Even on Crappy Days)

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but keeping your creative confidence going is hard. Our friend Austin Kleon has one of those creative practices we all envy — a robust, consistent work ethic that’s paid off in a New York Times bestselling book and the kind of audience that would be a “cult following” if it wasn’t so darned … huge. His latest book, Keep Going, is really good, and I was lucky enough to catch Austin at a book signing in April. I knew Keep Going would be perfect for the Copyblogger book club. The book isn’t about making the creative life easy. “Everything got better for me when I made peace with the fact that it might not ever get easier. The world is crazy. Creative work is hard. Life is short and art is long.” – Austin Kleon, Keep Going It’s about … well, keeping going, even […]

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8 Ways to Weave Simple Visuals into Your Kick-Ass Words

It happened somewhere around third grade, when you were about nine years old. Do you remember? Before that age, we were all multi-talented bundles of potential. We ran, climbed, learned to read and write, did simple math, made pictures, and built towers out of blocks with our own two hands. We dove right in and tried to conquer any new task that was put before us. But right around nine years old, the great “sorting” began. We began to stand out from our peers because we excelled at certain skills. And we began to notice that other skills were more difficult for us. We stood by as people around us surged ahead and became superstar “writers,” “math whizzes,” “artists,” “athletes,” “musicians,” and more. We specialized. It was perfectly natural. Part of growing up is getting to know what you enjoy and are inherently good at. As adults though, these specializations […]

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The Thing that Keeps Many Conscientious Writers from Trying Freelance Writing

If you’re concerned about whether or not you’d be a good service provider, there’s a good chance you’d be a perfectly acceptable service provider. You know who’s usually not a perfectly acceptable service provider? Those who don’t have that concern. Because, right now, a lot of people do the exact same work you want to do, and they never stopped to worry about whether or not they’d provide good service. And they don’t provide good service. And working with them is frustrating. This is your opportunity to stand out as a professional It’s time to dissolve the fears you might have about accidentally doing something wrong that will harm your reputation. You first need to actively shift from presenting yourself as just a writer to presenting yourself as a professional service provider who runs a business with established rules and guidelines. These include: Business hours Your terms of service Your […]

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Creative Self-Care to Keep Your Writing Mojo Strong

We content marketers are strategic types — but we’re creative as well, and that creative side needs nurturing. This week, we offered tips and practices for creative self-care, so you can keep producing extraordinary work. On Monday, Stefanie Flaxman shared five unconventional ways to meet your deadlines — and banish the “flaky creative” stereotype for good. On Tuesday, Claire Emerson outlined 10 ways to make progress on your big projects — even when paying gigs or daily obligations seem like they’re gobbling up every second of your time. (I’m a big fan of the second item on Claire’s list — it seems like a small thing, but it can make a big difference in how you approach those intimidating projects.) And on Wednesday, author Karl Staib swung by to suggest a creative self-care 30-day challenge — using a practice you might not associate with professional productivity. On the podcast, I […]

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The Missing Ingredient in Your Workday: A 30-Day Challenge

I sat there staring at my list of tasks and projects. A stress-flash shot down into my chest. I’d never felt this before. Was I having an anxiety attack? Why was I worrying about my “to-do” list? Then I realized an important fact about being an entrepreneur: The more you do each day, the more you add to your list the next morning. I was overwhelming myself. I wasn’t enjoying my work. I was working to cross things off, but also procrastinating more and more. I knew my mindset was trending in the wrong direction. I was hurting my ability to enjoy my work and get things done. How do you become more productive with ease? Last year, I did some research on productivity that I had forgotten about. Researcher Edward Deci noticed a trend in positive interactions vs. negative and how they influenced productivity. In his book, Why We […]

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10 Tips to Transform an Elusive Goal into a Doable Project

When you work with clients, their projects become your projects. And when you’re consumed with helping others achieve their big goals, you don’t have much time and energy to accomplish your own. Of course, it’s natural for your paid work to take priority. After all, there is rent to pay and mouths to feed. But often when we put off the things we really want to accomplish (and accomplish well), the lack of progress toward our goals leaves us feeling sad and disappointed. Like we’re wasting time by not doing something we really want to do. Basically, it sucks when you don’t feel like you’re progressing how you planned. But rather than let another year go by — where your important goals and personal projects get pushed aside — let’s take a look at 10 tried-and-tested techniques for making significant progress. 1. Give yourself permission to start before you feel […]

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Snub Your Next Deadline and Read This Instead

“Creative people are flaky.” That statement gets my blood boiling a bit, but I do understand where the sentiment comes from. When distractions are useful in order to ultimately make insightful connections for your job, the line that separates work and goof-off time often gets blurred. And having frustrating experiences with creative people who are “not reliable in performance or behavior” perpetuates the flaky stereotype. But who benefits from that belief? Non-creative people. Responsible creative people drive healthy competition “I’m not creative, but I’m responsible.” Those who think they’re not creative thrive off of the division of creativity and responsibility. It gives them a reason to feel superior and boast about their follow-through skills that greatly serve work teams. A creative person who demonstrates responsibility is a threat to those people. If a creative person is also responsible, a non-creative person has to bring something else of value to the […]

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