Forget chain-wielding lunatics or clowns. These spooky articles from MarketingProfs discuss monsters that plague your writing, the horrors of Frankenspeak, frightening traits that possess marketers, and more.
Are You Scared Yet? It’s
Frankenspeak Day!By Ann Handley It’s Frankenstein Friday—an event that celebrates the birth of the famous fictional character. I’m co-opting the holiday, which takes place annually the last Friday in October, to talk about my favorite kind of related monster, Frankenspeak. As I define it, Frankenspeak is convoluted text that doesn’t sound like it was pennedby a human, but instead sounds like it was created in a lab.Sometimes, it reads like someone bolted on words to create a terrifying stringof nonsense (“our mission-critical, scalable, high-performance, unparalleled,game-changing solution”) or bloated bit of buzzwords (“We have assembledsurgical and clinical expertise second to none, have a state-of-the-art trauma
center, developed sophisticated minimally invasive
techniques, and called oninnovative training and technology to ensure the highest level of patient safetyand quality of care,” as my friend David Meerman Scott wroteabout recently.)Either way, it’s sales-y language and useless marketing hype.In Content Rules, C.C. Chapman and I wrote about the words and phrases thatwe’d like to ban from marketing, sales, corporate communications, businessschools, blogs and boardrooms. But since today is a day to celebrate the scary, here are 10 of the most frightening: 1. Impactful. Ugh. This is a truly scary word that many people in business and education like to toss around to describe things that make an impact. But the word does not appear in most dictionaries and, if it does, should be banished. Instead try: “influential” or “substantial.” “Powerful” is good, too.
2. Leverage. This word is
the poster child of words that began life as nouns and(perplexingly) find themselves used as verbs. Instead try: (depending on theintended meaning) “influence,” “exploit,” “enhance,” “rely on,” or just plain“use.”3. Synergy. Also: Synergistic Synergism. Synergize. (And while we are on it, let’sadd all most words that end in “-ize” too: “incentivize,” “productize,”“monetize,” “budgetize,” “utilize,” “socialize,” “operationalize,” and (wait forit!) “calenderize,” which I actually heard someone use the other day. And yes,she had a perfectly straight face. Instead try: finding a word that doesn’t soundlike it was first uttered by the robot.4. Revolutionary or Innovative. People often use these terms in business todescribe things that really aren’t. Unless you just invented an escalator toPluto, don’t use them.5. Email blast. Businesses often use this phrase to describe an offer they’veemailed to their subscriber list. The problem is that it suggests disrespect. Areyou a spammer? Then you’ve “blasted.” Legitimate businesses mailing a
legitimate offer to an opt-in
subscriber list? Not so much. Instead try: Howabout “sent”?6. Proactive. The opposite of “reactive.” I understand that businesses want toseem like they’re reacting to issues even before they occur. But I think thisword just sounds pompous and should be avoided in business. Insteadtry: depending on the intended meaning, “foresee” or “anticipate.”7. Solution. Another favorite. Business people often use this word to describeor product or service they can’t otherwise explain. What’s wrong with“product” or “service”?8. Words that individually are harmless, but mashed together become horrid:Buy-in. Mission-critical. Dial-in. Best-of-breed. End-to-end. Value-add. Next-generation. Game-changing. Face-time. Push-back. Net-net. Win-win. And low-hanging (as it applies to “fruit” when you aren’t talking about an actual tree ororchard).9. Ridiculous phrases. There are a kajillion of these corporate-speak sillyphrases: Run it up the flagpole. Eat your own dogfood. Out of pocket. At the
end of the day. Peel
the onion. Peel the grape. Open the kimono. Open thekimono at the end of the day while you are peeling an onion.10. Finally, here are two more I dislike: “Nazi” when applied to businessconcepts (as in “brand Nazi”) or “drinking the Kool-Aid” as applied to acceptingideas or concepts (sometimes, without understanding). Since these twophrases are rooted in unfortunate and regrettable events in history, using themseems offensive or (at the very least) in bad taste.
5 Monsters That Suck the
Life Out of Your Blog PostBy Verónica Maria Jarski Scarier than any made-up monster, the following creatures often take hold of blogs and drive away interest (and business). To make sure that your blog hasn’t fallen under their wicked spells, we offer a quick field guide to identifying the creatures and how you can beat them. 1. The Vampire: This monster sucksthe life out of your blog and leaves you with dry copy—and a shell of an idea.The signs that this monster is gnawing on your blog are: pale, lackluster writingand a lack of reflection.Avoid becoming one: Keep your blog posts fresh. Write lively copy. Use activewords and crisp descriptions!
2. The Zombie: This blog
staggers around like the dead. It has no life within itbut wants to feast solely on the work of others. Signs that the zombie isgnawing on your blog are: an enormous amount of links and, oh, so very littlecontent.Avoid becoming one: Choose your links carefully. Create fresh content invarious formats when possible, such as videos, infographics, podcasts, etc.3. The Werewolf: This monster howls at the latest and greatest trends thenchases them down without purpose. It never takes the time to develop anunderstanding of any trend in depth, but just goes scurrying from fad to fad.Signs that the werewolf is on the loose on your blog are: lack of focus orpurpose on your blog, lack of discerning what is valuable to your readers (andwhat’s a waste of time) and rambling prose that goes nowhere.Avoid becoming one: Blog with a purpose. Know what you want the blog to beabout. Playing around with different ideas is fine, but you don’t want your blogto run wild in a pointless path.
4. The Mummy: The wrappings
look intriguing enough, but there’s no lifethere. Signs that your blog has become a mummy: a lovely design but no newcontent; widgets like counters that never get used; comboxes that never getcomments; and lots of silence in social media, too.Avoid becoming one: Keep your blog active by posting regularly. Create aneditorial calendar to help you keep track of ideas. Share your content bytweeting about it, linking to your post through other social media channels, etc.Recruit a guest blogger now and then to keep things interesting.5. The Ghost: This blog bears some resemblance to the mummy, however it’sfar worse. It’s the blog that someone set up and even made look nice. But younever did anything else with it. Ghostly and pale, this blog has links that gonowhere, instructions from the template still on it, fake text, etc. Signs thatyour blog is a ghost: You completely forgot about that blog until you read thisdescription … and now you’re thinking, “Whatever happened to that blog Istarted?”
Avoid becoming one: Make a
commitment to your blogging efforts. Set a timetable for it. And then stick to it. Just make sure you have enough time tonurture readers and develop it.
The Scariest Traits a Marketer
Can PossessBy Corey OLoughlin Marketing is a challenging profession, one that requires us to be fully engaged and involved in the changes to our brand—and also in our industry. Marketers must stay up to speed on all new developments or they will quickly risk obsolescence. That being said, plenty of marketers possess a few very scary traits that impact their brands and theireffectiveness. Here are three deadly traits to avoid.Narcissism—Let’s face it. Most of us aren’t “experts.” Most of us haven’t beenpublished, aren’t keynote-caliber speakers, and haven’t made serious advancesin our marketing niche. That doesn’t mean we aren’t good marketers; we
certainly are. But lately it
seems that most marketers are asserting themselvesas experts—and this is a very slippery slope.When the narcissism trait sneaks into your marketing team, you quickly losethe ability to work well with others, adapt to changes, and value outsidefeedback. Avoid this trait, stay humble, keep learning, and listen to thefeedback of others!Apathy—We’ve all seen it, and we all know how toxic it can be. A marketercannot become apathetic. The drive we have as marketers to be constantlysearching for innovative ideas and creative solutions is what keeps our brandsperforming. If you are becoming apathetic in your current role, it’s time to findanother job!Marketers need to actively seek inspiration and new ideas. That’s why you arereading the MarketingProfs blog after all, isn’t it? Also, marketers need to besure they are constantly reflecting on the data and acting on facts, notassumptions.
Procrastination—Time management is an essential
skill for marketers. Withour to-do lists growing, putting tasks off is simply not an option. Setting SMARTgoals and developing a plan to achieve those goals can help keep your effortson track, but beyond that, marketers need to be dedicated to the cause andeager to achieve in order to resist the urge to procrastinate.After all, you know what they say about procrastination: It’s not good. (OK,that’s not really what they say, but I’ll keep it clean.)
5 Content Writing Lessons from
Bone-Chilling TalesBy Verónica Maria Jarski Love them or hate them, scary stories are part of the human experience. In the United States, we celebrate Halloween today, but every other country has version of their own spooky traditions. And part of the experience is the sharing of stories. So, what elements have made those stories last so long? And what can marketers learn fromthem? Here are five main reasons that the stories have stayed with us—andideas for how we, too, can create long-lasting content.
1. Write with rich detail.It’s
not just a horseman. It’s the Headless Horseman. It’s not just a Snowman,it’s the Abominable Snowman. The details and the emotion-inspiringwords, harrowing, spine-tingling, dripping, thumping, screeching, blood-red,raven-black, etc. make the story come to life for us.What you can do: Writing content rich in details does not mean writing a tome.It means using words carefully—like a poet—with each word meaningsomething. Think of the writing greats like Ernest Hemingway who said muchwith little. Use your words well.2. Use a character that inspires strong emotion.Whether you find him intriguing or vain, Dr. Frankenstein doesn’t leave readersfeeling indifferently towards him. Something draws us to him and his fiendishcreation. So, whether readers are entranced by Count Dracula or cheering onvampire hunter Van Helsing, the important fact is that the reader is reacting.What you can do: If you’re writing a case study, make sure the reader canidentify with the company or the person you are writing about. Make the readercare. If you are sharing a customer success story, make sure the reader believes
this is really a person,
not a flimsy cardboard cut-out representation of aperson.3. Sentences do something.The raven quoth, the telltale heart is thumping. Witches fly in the sky.Werewolves howl at the moon. Sentences in spooky stories are active. Theydon’t passively describe what is happening, but movement is described.What you can do: Use active sentences in your content. Passive sentences havetheir place, of course, but active ones should rule the day.4. Wordplay underlines the story.One of the most famous scenes from “Macbeth” features the three witchesover a cauldron, murmuring, “Double, double, toil and trouble. Fire burn, andcauldron bubble.” It’s the rhyme and rhythm that stays in our mind long afterthe play is done. The same with Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven.” It’s therepetitive word “nevermore” that begins to drive the reader a little nutty justas the raven is doing the same to the narrator.
What you can do: Know
your literary terms, such as personification, alliteration,metaphors, and analogies. By becoming familiar with these terms, your writingcan employ these when necessary. It’s not as complicated as it sounds. Youdon’t need to write a classic poem or story, but use these writing tools to addtexture to your content.5. The story takes you somewhere.A good writer carries you along a journey. You follow down the corridors insearch for the cask of Amontillado in one Poe short story. In another, you canhear the narrator fall into madness as he hears the tell-tale heart beating everlouder.What you can do: Take your reader on a journey. In Nancy Duarte’s Take 10,she discusses the highlights in carrying your audience, as the hero, through ajourney from what was to what can be. Your destination isn’t the same as onein a spooky story, but the important part is to have a destination for yourvisitor.BONUS: A lesson is learned.In a film class I took, the instructor told us that lessons can be learned even in
horror movies: Don’t separate yourself
from a group when camping. Don’t gosmooching when you need to be helping out. Don’t go into the basement whenthe light bulb isn’t working. Don’t leave your tent without a flashlight. Anddon’t ever, ever pick on someone because they’ll come back and get you.What you can do: Whether a big lesson or small lesson, leave the reader withsomething new to ponder.
A Marketers Halloween: Eight Monsters
That Scare Us[Infodoodle]By Verónica Maria JarskiHockey-mask wearing villains? Things that go bump in the night? Clowns?Boring. What really scares us are neglected websites, frankenspeak, andprojects that suck the life right out of you.On this Halloween day, were sharing an infodoodle of what a marketersHalloween really looks like.In the infodoodle below, you see what turns ourhair white with fear and what makes us bite our fingernails down to the quick. 1. Just-once customers. Customers who do fly-bys horrify marketers. They check out your website and never return. They buy your product and never buy another one. They listen to your talk and never come back. 2. Neglected Websites or Blogs. Straight out of the 1990s, sites that feature too many animated GIFs, music, anything that blinks (or quite frankly, moves) strikes terror into our hearts. Nothing says you dont give a flying bat like creating your online space and neglecting it.
3. Ghosts of Failed Marketing
Campaigns. Failure happens---but failure can be transformed into a learning experience. (Yes, it sounds hokey and like what a losing team murmurs to itself in consolation, but its true. Failure gets the best out of you when you stay haunted by the failure. Best to just face it, see why it failed, and then learn from it. Dont let past failures ruin future successes.4. Vampire of Life-draining Projects. We all have projects that suck the life out of us. Either they go on too long or they have grown fangs that bite into you and bleed you dry. Beware of projects that last too long, seem endless, or sound more beneficial than they really are.5. Frankenspeak. Smarty-pants language seldom is intelligent. Frankenspeak, as Ann Handley dubbed it, is "is convoluted text that doesn’t sound like it was penned by a human, but instead sounds like it was created in a lab." And if youve watched horror films, you know that anything haphazardly slapped together in a lab will create havoc and destruction in its wake. Scary!6. Stale, Mummified Content. Some companies create a piece of content and practically embalm it. Unchanged and underwraps, the content is dead but
only has the form of
a human. What scares us is content that is presented by a company on every social channel in the exact same way. 7. Lean Budgets. You cant write about scary things without discussing budgets. Marketers often ask how they can do this or that on their shoestring budgets. You can do a lot with a lean budget---but that doesnt mean you dont hold your breath, cross your fingers, and worry. 8. Great Pumpkins of Unanalyzed Data. Sometimes, too much data can be overwhelming. Like pumpkins, they are heavy, hard to carry, and awkward to handle. Dont let yourself be crushed by too much data.See the infodoodle on the next page for a visual about marketers fears.