Blog Archives

Tone deaf multinationals should know better

Icon for Post #4127

One of the things we teach in Hootville’s copywriting course Copy Savvy 101 is that tone matters. By tone, we mean the vibe, the manner, the impression you create with your words.

One golden rule: choose a tone. Never let your default tone become your tone. Consider what will work for you in relation to your key audiences audiences. And for Pete’s sake – stand out.

How formal will you be? How sophisticated will your language be? How specific or obtuse will your references be? Will you sound jaded, knowing, ironic? Will you be angry, friendly, outraged, caring, urgent?

Will you presume that your reader has some insider knowledge or that they are a newcomer to your issue?

Do you engage the reader with direct questions? Do you write more words or fewer? Do you tell stories and use humour? Did you notice that we’re using this tone as we speak?

Tone is created by more than words. Headlines, images and captions go a long way to establishing your tone. People who will never be paid to write for a living can detect a tone within a paragraph or two.

Of course your choice of what to write about and the priority each issue receives is a key way to convey your personality. Do you focus on changes to legislation and regulation – or focus on a client’s story? Are you deeply detailed or short and sweet?

There’s no one right tone. Just the one that works best for you in relation to your key audiences for the medium that you are using at the time.

copywriting advice

Oh puh-lease!

When organisations get their tone wrong it hurts them. You’ve all heard of airbnb, the website allowing people to rent out their spare rooms in exchange for money. Well airbnb is in hot water. Owners corporations don’t like strangers in their apartments and more importantly tax-hungry state governments in America want to tax airbnb’s users the way they tax hotel.

(Commonly referred to as bed taxes, each hotel night booked attracts a few dollars tax for government. So far airbnb has just ignored this.)

This is a threat to the airbnb juggernaught, so its hired lobbyists, rebranded and started a campaign to persuade lawmakers of airbnb’s deep worthiness.

The 5 year old company may be valued at $ 18 billion but it claims that deep down it’s a community. (If it were a community not a business this place would be free.)

Like so many US businesses they act as if their corporate success is in fact some social movement - the “sharing economy”.  What do you think of the tone? Is it simply too, too much? We think so.

copy writing course

Cringe-worthy copy from people with money to burn and writers on tap.

airbnb is far from alone in making this error. Facebook is a regular sinner.

Little did we know that by using Facebook to stalk our exes we were supporting Facebook’s “journey”. We hate that word.

We don’t mind some poetic waxing but as soon as you’ve overplayed your hand, as soon as you’ve overstated your case, as soon as the reader knows that you’re trying one on – you’ve lost them. Then you have no chance to win them over.

This is as off-tone as Mark Zuckberg’s speech on the day Facebook listed on the stock exchange. (Kicks in about at 50 seconds or so.)


Squiggle exclusive: Old men in hats take to Twitter

Icon for Post #4159
landcare media training

Home, home on the range.

Once again our canine mascot and mentor Squiggle barks the hard barks (AKA asks the hard questions) of a standout marketer. Answering the questions - Yonie Tiljak, community coordinator with the Heytesbury District Landcare Network, the force behind  @HytsbryLandcare

When did you take to Twitter and why?

I took to Twitter in March this year after my interest was caught at a workshop led by your Mayor, Brett de Hoedt as part of the Landcare Facilitator program. Before that I was a major Twitter sceptic.


How big is your Twitter pack now?

My Twitter pack is now hovering around the 1050 mark, yesterday it was 1055 today it is 1049. Some come some go but generally more coming of late.


How many dog owners among them?

Being an owner of 3 dogs myself I find I’m pretty intuitive at judging dog people by their profile pictures, I would say by the number of dogs, cattle and outdoorsy looking types in the profile pictures we’d be sitting on around the 500 dog owners mark.


Close to half – well that’s a start. Anyhoo…how’d you get that rapid growth?

I took home tips from the workshop, read a free book on Kindle called “how to grow your twitter following” and just hit it hard really. I followed everyone I could find who was in to Landcare or Environment and I then followed their followers. Once a week I would go through and unfollow any who hadn’t followed me back, if they looked interesting though I then refollowed them. I pretty much became a Twitter pest. But I also backed that up with lots of interesting tweets, photos and retweets to keep people interested and thanked people for following and retweeting me. After a while I also found out the other use for # tags and started participating in Twitter chats, in particular #agchatoz which connected me with more like minded Tweeters.


social media environment groups

Outdoors, on the job, online, on message.

What do you tweet about?

I tweet about Landcare, local rural life, the environment and what it is like working for Landcare and being a part of a small community. I also tell off the occasional politician and thank our corporate sponsors for their support.


Were their some naysayers who thought that Twitter for a group like yours was a waste of energy?

Yes, in fact I was one of them but I will try anything once! There are some even more stubborn sceptics out there, I often get asked how much time a day I put towards it and my response is it is always on in the background, no different to my emails and my phone.


Any specific benefits from all this Twitter activity?

I won a bottle of wine at the National Landcare Conference for one of 2 best Tweets of the conference, Score! Also work bought me an iPad so I can Tweet in the field! But in all seriousness I have also made some really good contacts through Twitter including other Landcare Networks and Groups, Landholders both local and afar and businesses and other not for profits who are now showing interest in collaborating with us on projects.


How many hours do you spend on Twitter? In human hours please.

Some days 0 some days 3 (#agchatoz generally takes around 3 hours) an average daily time would be around half an hour to an hour of actual direct Twitter use but as I said it is always on in the background.


Got one Twitter secret to share?

Well you put it in to words but it is true, never miss an opportunity! Always check the trending list and if a relevant # tag is on it use it! Multiple times! If you are at an event and they have a # tag use it! Multiple times! Don’t forget to follow @hytsbrylandcare! See, don’t miss any opportunity!


Finally – cat videos are big on the internet. Do you agree that this is a waste of bandwidth?

Yes! Cats are one of the biggest threats to our native birds and small mammals! I don’t need them wasting my already measly internet allowance.

A poignant way to finish. Thankyou Yonie.

Read Squiggle’s previous interview which featured James Beckford Saunders.


This man needs Hootville. You do too.

Icon for Post #4043

As Australian media trainers we were so … impressed … by Ryutaro Nonomura’s impassioned press conference performance that we decided to make a 46 second video ad utilising the remarkable display. The basic premise: don’t leave media training until it is too late.

For those of you not following Japanese political meltdowns (perhaps due to family commitments, work pressures or indifference) suffice to say that the citizens represented by the MP were outraged that he’d spent $40,000 of public money on visits to the local spa. Clearly the criticism hurt.  Enjoy.

It’s an extreme example but a good one – by the time you need media training, it’s too late. Many clients contact us for Speak Savvy 101 training and confess that they have been considering such media training for years.

In that time, media opportunities are going begging. Bad form. And then of course there’s always the chance that media will come knocking on your door with awkward questions. Message to CEOs and boards: stop waiting, get savvy.

Speak Savvy 101 is delivered across Australia by Brett de Hoedt who recently made an Australia-wide appearance from a small studio in Melbourne courtesy of ABC-TV’s Weekend Breakfast. Isn’t it smart to hire a media trainer who appears on the media?

Speak Savvy 101 is aimed at media spokespeople and anyone who presents or speaks to stakeholders. Lots of people hire him.If your media spokespeople need training contact Brett de Hoedt of Hootville right now. 0414 713 802.

media training al gore

500+ campaigners. 1 media trainer. 1 tart. Long story.

If we’re good enough to talk media at Al Gore’s Climate Reality event Hootville might be good enough to train you. We’ve also trained the Australian Conservation Foundation, Climate Commission, Berry Street, Our Community, University of Melbourne departments, Bush Heritage Australia, BirdLife Australia, Inner South Community Health,  Baw Baw Shire, Marriott Support Services, Environment Defender’s Office, National Family Violence Prevention Legal Service & more. Smart people, tough issues.

Hootville has media trained them all – CEOs, board members, senior management teams, young people, people with disabilities, homeless people, people with English as a second language. We can probably handle you.

People think we’re pretty damn good.

And if you’ve been mature enough to not watch that video yet – here’s your last chance. More on Speak Savvy 101 right here.


Facebook’s retargetting means never saying goodbye.

Icon for Post #4014

We have all noticed the recent explosion in Facebook advertising. It’s all the rage for manufacturers of dental implants to manufacturers of marriages. If you need a primer why not read our previous posts?

facebook advertising

Everyone's at it from I.T providers to NFP recruiters.

Of course nonprofits are using it too – to recruit, to solicit donations and to campaign.

Our feeling on its worth are mixed – it’s fun to put one’s marketing intuition to the test, create an ad and monitor click through rates and costs per action. It’s cool to change an element of an ad – the audience’s gender or interests and see how that impacts on results. All those columns of numbers and staring at screens is akin to daytrading which was very big a decade or so ago but is little discussed nowadays but we digress…

That said, we’re yet to see even our most pleasing Facebook advertising performances turn into business.

Perhaps Facebook casts the net too broadly. Why serve an ad up to stranger (no matter how precisely targeted) when you could have your Facebook ad appear on the Facebook page of people who have recently visited your website? This is exactly what re-targeting allows you to do.

Thanks to a cookie, Facebook will identify individuals who visit your website and later serve them up your ad when they next log on to Facebook.

The ad may be designed to refer to the fact that the recipient has recently visited you or not.

You can be even cleverer serving up very specific ads that appear to people who have visited very specific pages on your site. Eg: serve up a Facebook ad to people who have visited your donation page but left without donating with the aim of extracting that lost donation. Muse on the possibilities dear Citizens!

Let’s say you offer accredited Certificate IV courses in animal management for people seeking to work in veterinary surgeries. You could target people who visited the page of your website offering information on that course without making an enquiry with an ad featuring a cute dachshund with the headline:

“Still want to work with animals? Good. Check out our course.”

Think of your Facebook ad meeting people a cocktail party. Re-targeting takes your Facebook ad from “Hello, nice to meet you.” to “Imagine bumping into you here!”

facebook advertising retargeting

Stalking? Please - let's call it smart advertising.

Here are some re-targeted Facebook ads that have been appearing on our screens here at Hootville.

The two highlighted posts are re-targeting Brett after he visited their websites. The cunning devils!

Virgin Australia excelled itself by placing an ad on Brett’s Facebook page showing the specific dates and destination that he recently searched. Big brother? Big deal – it’s a big opportunity for you.

We’d be interested in your experiences – anyone turn Facebook advertising – re-targeted or not – into stellar results?

Brett talks climate change campaigning on ABC-TV

Icon for Post #4004
media trainer Brett de Hoedt

How quickly the media trainer becomes the media performer.

Before speaking about media to 500+ aspiring environmental campaigners at Al Gore’s Climate Reality event in Melbourne, media trainer Brett de Hoedt was interviewed on ABC-TV’s Weekend Breakfast. So how well does a media trainer perform on live television? Judge for yourself.

Brett says it was a tricky interview: “The interview brief was rather fuzzy. I spoke to three or four different segment producers each of whom was just carrying on the work for someone else. Nobody had fully thought through what was to be tackled. The best investment I made was writing a pre-interview document suggesting some topics / issues. I also explained that I wasn’t an environmentalist or event organiser. I explained the topics that I could address with knowledge and certainty.

Brett - who does not lack confidence – spent six to eight hours prepping for this seven minute interview. Why so much? “Evaluating or defending the climate change movement’s campaigning is not something about which I specifically blog or speak,” he humbles. “Other topics would require little more prep than the ironing of a shirt but this wasn’t one of those.”

Of course, going-to-air live adds an element of risk. The interview was held in the remote studio in Melbourne talking directly down the barrel of a tiny camera. The room is small, hot and there’s no monitor to see your interviewer. You are spoken to via an earpiece. There was no briefing by the interviewer’s prior to her opening question – just a time countdown.

Brett himself rates his performance a 7 / 10. “On time, dressed, no swearing, looked reasonably comfortable, made a few decent points, didn’t accidentally call interviewer Kochie,” he says.

“Bonus points for clarifying the interview’s direction beforehand and the subsequent research. I directed the conversation back to what I wanted it to be a couple of times. Yeah – about a seven.” Not good enough but not bad.

Brett’s review of Brett: Brett’s first response: You could measure it (the climate movement’s campaigning results) in a positive way or a negative way… That’s good practice. Explaining that it can be measured in a positive or negative way paves the way for me to then go ahead and explain the two ways. That’s two bites of the cherry and more control for me. I always teach that, so it’s good to see that I did it.


Eliza: Last year’s election result seems to be a mandate for Tony Abbott and his government to move away from a pricing mechanism on carbon. So therefore do you think that things have really stalled? Brett: Yeah, it’s certainly not a vote in favour of the current campaign… Very, very bad.

I should not have accepted this characterisation and should have said: “Well the election was a measure of many things – carbon tax being just one of them. In fact its been broadly agreed that environment matters were almost entirely off the election agenda. Interestingly this week another poll confirmed that 80%+ of Australians want to reduce carbon.”


Eliza: You talk about the current way of campaigning. An Inconvenient Truth – there were quite a few fear messages. I mean that part of it was quite frightening, the prospects of what would happen. Do you think that fear has been somewhat of a problem?                                                                              

In any reasonably sophisticated interview there’s the question and then there’s the premise on which the question is based. The underlying premise here was that Al Gore had overstated his case in An Inconvenient Truth and that predictions had failed to come true.

This premise had to be identified and countered in real time. Thus I am happy with my response which was in part: If we’re saying that the worst impact of climate change is yet to happen, well, I’d say, according to a report from the World Health Organization 7 million people around the globe, 7 million, died prematurely from air pollution. A staggering statistic. We’ve just had our hottest summer on record in Australia. We’ve had I think the warmest autumn ever. So the impacts are right here, right now. So I don’t think we have to worry about terrible circumstances down the track. The here and now is quite bad enough to steel us to action.

I’m am also glad that I repeated a key stat – 7 million deaths. Who’d have thought my prep would have paid off?


Eliza: Do you feel that the other side of the argument is running a better public relations campaign?    Not a bad response by me but I should have added that much of the media has decided to ignore science and climate change with this a line like this:

It’s easy to maintain the status quo when there is media on your side despite the facts. Some media outlets in this country are now so politically-driven that they can’t even agree whether we’ve smoked more or less in the last year – despite ABS data and annual reports of tobacco companies.” 


Eliza: OK – so how do you counter that? This is a broad question so it provided an opportunity to promote the Climate Reality training. Also glad I got to use the phrase, “Tree hugging vegans” and speak of 30-year-long comas.  

climate change media training

Shell sells a C tax.

One big dumb error was not mentioning this blog post by Shell’s climate change advisor David Hone which argues passionately for a price on carbon. I had my schtick ready: “Eliza last night I read a blog post titled: 10 reasons why business should love a price on carbon. That’s the sort of article you’d expect to see on a greenie website but I found it on the Shell website. As in Shell oil. It was written by Shell’s own climate change advisor David Hone. When Shell is schilling for a price on carbon, it’s time the politicians caught up.” Bugger.

climate change media training

Always good to hear from one's public.

When I mentioned that climate change attracts criticism and kooks I wasn’t exaggerating. By the time I returned to Hootville HQ two emails – each debunking the climate change hoax – awaited me. Then there was this minor and poorly written Facebook trolling.


Al Gore almost meets Brett de Hoedt

Icon for Post #3991

Hootville’s Brett de Hoedt has been chosen to present at Climate Reality 2014, one of the environment movement’s major events for 2014, where he’ll share the bill with former U.S Vice President Al Gore. The Oscar-and-Nobel winning Harvard graduate and Apple board member will be in Melbourne to present An Inconvenient Truth live and impart the wisdom gained from fighting for the environment on a global scale.

al gore in melbourne

Sadly Mr Gore will not have the opportunity to meet Brett de Hoedt.

Brett, who went to a local TAFE as a mature aged student and wrote for New Idea, will be delivering a keynote on gaining media coverage and performing effectively for media. Ain’t social mobility grand?    

Climate Reality, which is the brainchild of Mr Gore, brings together 500+ activists from across Australia and the Asia-Pacific region for three days of intense training before being unleashed to present and campaign on environmental matters. Successful attendees were selected from thousands of applicants.

Says Brett: “The challenge is to condense two full-day workshops to 60 minutes. Two options – talk really fast or distill, distill, distill. I’ll take option B.”

So has Brett been offered an opportunity to meet the great man? Yes – but he can’t make it. “I’m driving to Mitchell Shire to deliver social media training to 40 or so local community groups,” he reports. “That’s showbusiness.”

Media trainer Brett de Hoedt

Brett will be appearing on devices like this one across the nation.

At least Mr Gore can watch Brett on TV. Brett’s been invited on to ABC TV’s Weekend Breakfast Sunday June 22 to discuss the marketing of climate change. Be up early to watch it – 7.20am is the prime timeslot.

Read what Mr Gore said in the lead up to his Australian trip.

15 years celebration giveaway

Icon for Post #3986

Hootville tries to resist self-indulgent nostalgia but turning 15 is worth a toot of the horn. (And a giveaway detailed below – closes Friday July 4.)

Our first client was the delightful multi-gold-medal winning Paralympian Priya Cooper in 1999. Brett scored a bagful of media coverage for Priya (she was an easy pitch) and felt the distinct adrenalin rush that came with securing each hit. Then came a nonprofit Asia-Pacific women’s development bank client. Brett’s media release landed coverage with its headline: “Women’s bank to refuse male customers.” An empire was founded micro business was born.

melbourne PR agency

Employee 001. Don't be fooled by his dusty exterior. Kevin's thermal roll is ready to unspool at a moment's notice.

Brett’s first employee was Kevin the talking fax machine (left). “Fax” doesn’t do Kevin justice as he is also a phone, copier and scanner. He still serves casually and was used last week to fax a regional shire. Once more Kevin’s bon mot rang out: ”Transmission is complete”.

Last century is millions of emails and many, many unfinished administrative tasks ago. We’d like to thank all our former clients, staff and current associates, none more so than our mascot and mentor Squiggle.

Hootville has served 500 clients, delivering hundreds of training workshops, emceeing scores of events, birthing new websites, creating PR plans and giving advice – some of it quite sage. We are proud to serve the NFP sector not as a pro-bono favour, nor as a novel source of revenue but as the bread and butter of our business.

We’ve achieved far more and far less than we hoped. Yep – both. That’s showbiz. Regrets; we’ve had a few but then again…

We are very proud of the amount of free advice we’ve given away via the Hootville Lowdown and website. Thus we thought we’d give something else away to celebrate. How about 15 free advice sessions? 15 telephone sessions each of 30 minutes duration to discuss anything you want in the world of marketing, PR, comms and campaigning. If we can help we will, otherwise…well it’ll just have to be awkward. Your whole team can join in.

Just email us who you are and what you want to talk about. 250 words max. We’ll choose the 15 winners to represent a mix of causes and circumstances. As always we’ll stay true to our motto: Communications for good; not evil.

Breaking: Public Speak Savvy 101 in Melbourne

Icon for Post #3832

Looking for a media training workshop for your spokespeople? Hootville Communications has decided to host a public Speak Savvy 101 workshop in Melbourne – our first public workshop for at least five years and our second ever such session in Melbourne. It shall be held late June / July. Full details to come but here’s what we know:

  • small, strictly limited group of like-minded people;
  • pre-workshop preparation and homework;
  • unlimited 12-months of back-up coaching
  • rather very nice CBD venue;
  • 10-4pm;
  • lots of interaction and rehearsal;
  • lunch on us and please stick around for a drink afterwards;
  • video camera to ensure everyone is on their toes;
  • personal attention to your issues, organisation and audiences;
  • advice on media targets and story angles you are currently ignoring;
  • comprehensive notes;
  • lots of examples both good and bad.
media trainer Brett de Hoedt

"What do you mean some readers won't want to come? Turncoats!"

Trainer is of course former journalist, broadcaster and media trainer Brett de Hoedt (left) who trains Australian Conservation Foundation, Berry Street, Australian Climate Commission, Landcare, Youth Affairs Council Victoria, St Vincent Institute, City of Ballarat Multicultural Ambassadors, Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention Legal Service, LG Pro and dozens more each year to much acclaim.

The pace is challenging, the style informal and the curriculum practical:

WHAT THE MEDIA WANTS: what it takes to get the media profile you seek.

COMMUNICATIONS COMMANDMENTS: five principles to guide all your communications.

KEY MESSAGES and SOUND BITES: selecting and delivering them.

PRE-INTERVIEW PREPARATION: questions to ask, issues to resolve, conditions to apply beforehand to avoid poor performances and nasty surprises.

FAQs: Preparing strong answers for common questions and repeat issues.

PERCEPTIONS: understanding how the media and your audiences perceive you and your issues. Getting to know your audiences’ perceptions, anxieties, pre-conceptions and hot buttons.

PECULIARITIES of the various media channels: print, TV and radio. 

DAMAGE CONTROL: How to minimise damage during tough times.

TAKING CONTROL, ignoring questions to deliver what you really want to say. (We’ll also work on deciding what you really want to say and saying it in the most effective way.)


Express your interest with a quick call to Brett: 0414 713 802 or email us.

Some hot dates for you all you (marketing) lovers out there

Icon for Post #3826

Our trainer-in-chief Brett de Hoedt has a few days to kill between upcoming interstate gigs. Idle hands are the devil’s playground so do everyone a favour and book Brett to deliver some of his glowingly-reviewed training in: copywriting, social media, website management, marketing, media relations, campaign planning, media interviews or presenting.

media and marketing training in brisbane

Brett is ready to fly. Ring-a-ding-ding.

You might just want to discuss a possibility with him face-to-face. Either way just call Brett on 0414 713 802. Booking Brett when he’s in the neighbourhood works out well for us, so we’ll make it especially good value for you. The main value of course is in the learning – fast, practical and rewarding.

Remember Brett is engaged by single organisations, groups that work together on an issue or project, groups gathered by peaks and professional bodies. Local governments, shires and volunteer resource centres often use Brett to deliver training to an assortment of community groups in one sitting.  He travels anywhere at anytime but these dates make particular sense right now:

Gold Coast: Friday June 6 from noon.

Brisbane: Thursday June 12.

Sydney: Tuesday September 2 and Wednesday September 3.

media training in adelaide

Wang Wang, Funi, meet Brett. Brett meet Wang Wang and Funi.

Adelaide: Thursday October 23. (Or maybe Brett could finally see the pandas!)

How to improve any piece of copywriting

Icon for Post #3545
copywriting workshop for marketing

One day to boost your skills & expand your thinking.

Brett recently delivered our copywriting workshop, Copy Savvy 101 to a posse from the Brotherhood of St Laurence. Few were formally trained in writing or communications but all wanted to be better writers as they write as part of their job for audiences internal and external.

copywriting tips

Cosmo writes good copy and utilises the first-guinea pig style.

At one point Brett excitedly declared: “You see – it’s not hard to dramatically improve your copywriting. Not hard.” Let’s see – here’s some of his advice for anyone wanting to simply improve their copywriting;

You don’t need to be a crack writer to implement any of these points. So go forth and write good copy. And if you think this can help anyone, please share it. Now go book yourself a place at Copy Savvy 101.

Page 1 of 2712345...1020...Last »