Word of the Week: Efficiency


daylight savings, time savings, time management

Daylight Savings has us springing forward!

We sprang forward over the weekend.

Upside: More post-work rays of sunshine. Wuhoo!

Downside: You “lose” an hour. Boo hoo.

As if you had an hour to spare–ha! No way. Not with your to-do list, right?

That’s why this week we’re focusing on how to be efficient and get some time back.

This month’s Claxonette (our free monthly e-newsletter) comes out tomorrow. It’s got tips and inspiration for efficiently taking your messaging from yawn to yippee. If you’re not already a subscriber, sign-up here.

Then later in the week, we’ll have a guest post from the duo at Tandem Editing. They’ll share their top tips for being an efficient editor.

My time-saving tip for you: Write your to-do list for the next day at the end of the day. It sets you up to instantly dig in rather than trying to remember where you left off the night before. Sounds silly but it works!

Messaging Tip: Getting your features & benefits to inform & inspire

Ah the elusive balance between informing and inspiring. How do you compellingly speak to the features of your work and the benefits while keeping it short n’ sweet?

If you’re wrestling with this, the approach we used for this Microsoft cause campaign might be really handy.

Quick background: To celebrate their first 20 years of certification, Microsoft Learning decided they’d rather create a year-long campaign to create better careers and better lives for aspiring IT pros around the world than blow out 20 candles on a big ol’ cake. For the campaign, there are 20 different ways for established IT pros to pay it forward. The ways will be revealed throughout the year. Three are currently active.

Now for the handy tip: Here are the first three Calls to Action (CTAs). Note that each one follows the same pattern: Feature. Benefit.

The advantage of this approach is that you can inform and inspire. You can inform them of the action you want them to take while inspiring them by showing the difference their action will make.

No single approach works in every instance, but if your audience responds well to the inform/inspire approach, give this one a whirl.

Bonus: Saw this ad while out and about earlier this week. (I was stopped when I took the picture, for the record. ) Washington State Lottery used it on their current bus campaign: “When you play, students win.” Same approach: Feature, benefit. (The picture is lousy but you get the point!)

When you play, students win.

How do you balance features and benefits?

Adjective Adjustment: 3 Rules of Thumb

Eye-catching adjectives (and adverbs) can enliven an otherwise ho-hum hunk of copy. But you have to be careful how you use them. If you overuse them, you risk irritating or boring your reader. They are, after all, extra words and each word takes time to read, so you have to make each word worth their while.

To help you avoid adjective awkwardness, here are three Rules of Thumb for effectively using adjectives in mission-driven messaging.

  1. Keep Calls to Action (CTAs) adjective-free: There’s a reason ‘Donate Now’, ‘Sign-up Today’, and other short CTAs work. They get right to the point. Go with it.
  2. No trash: If you can get the point across without the adjective, do it. Otherwise, you risk gunking up your copy. This is especially true for shorter pieces (FB posts, Tweets, etc.) and CTAs (see #1 above).  Example: “We helped protect 1,000 acres of precious wetlands.” Knowing they’re precious doesn’t make much of a difference. It mainly makes you wonder what un-precious wetlands are. Make sure it adds value to the point. Otherwise, delete.
  3. Don’t be boring: When an adjective can help you grab someone’s attention–e.g. subject lines–pick something that will stand out. Avoid overused adjectives like thriving, successful and amazing. We expect to see these words so we don’t really see them. It’s wasted space. Pick adjectives that evoke emotion or speak to the reader’s senses. There are approximately 100,000 adjectives in the English language. Find one that adds some zing to your thing!

This is a mash-up from a variety of sources. If you want to dig deeper, I recommend Roger Dooley’s Neuromarketing blog and Jason Cohen’s post 10 Secrets to More Magnetic Copy on Copyblogger.