Blog Archives

Copy Savvy 101 webinar announced: $220 early bird discount.

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Hootville will hold a two-part Copy Savvy 101 webinar Tuesday December 4 and Tuesday December 11 2012. Each session lasts from 10am to 12.30 although participants will be able to replay them on-demand.

Last year’s session was a sell out so book soon to A) get in and B) enjoy our $220 early bird discount.

Warning: spelling and grammar barely rate a mention in this workshop. Audiences, headlines, captions, quotes and perceptions however will be discussed. So too will: developing a brief, finding your tone, writing for search engines, writing for social media and providing constructive feedback. This is hyper-practical and aimed squarely at securing donors, members and influence. More details and booking information.

There will be dozens of examples from the non-profit and corporate world; suggestions, interaction, laughter and tears.

The workshop is delivered by former reporter Brett de Hoedt who has written Sydney Morning Herald opinion pieces and game show questions to Cheap Eats restaurant reviews and on-hold messages. He’s edited membership magazines, written media releases, speeches and t-shirts slogans. Here is the toughest thing he ever wrote.

As with our other workshops we welcome up to six participants from the one organisation for the same price. A modest supplement is payable if you have more than six people participating.

The new two-part format keeps each session lively while the extended five-hour length means that there’s more time for learning, Q&A and writing exercises. And yes; there will be homework between week one and two.

Participants will be able to submit their work for review before session one, shall receive extensive notes post webinar and have access to four weeks on-call follow up coaching. They will be able to replay the webinar on-demand.

Not available on the day? Who cares?

Everyone who books the Copy Savvy 101 webinar will be able to replay the webinar on demand so if you’re not available on the day watch it at your convenience and we’ll make a time to talk through your questions afterwards. It will be just like being there. No excuses. In fact – why bother with the date at all? Book, watch and afterwards have a private Q&A with us. Isn’t that how online learning is supposed to work? More details and booking information.

How do I access a webinar?

The ‘webinar’ is basically a password protected web page, so if you have internet access you can access the webinar. The audio can come via your computer or via teleconference. You will also be able to type questions and comments as the webinar progresses. More details and booking information.


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Good copywriting examples

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No doubt about it – this is good copy. Well a good headline at least. The rest is awful but let’s look at the positives:

Good copywriting example

Well HAVE you ever not read a text? HAVE you?

1. It takes advantage of every copywriter’s go-to tactic – the rhetorical question. We like rhetoricals because they connect with the audience.

2. It confidently delivers a truth (advertising folk sometimes call it an “insight”) which may just give the reader pause for thought. In this case the insight is that text messages DO get read.

Anytime you give a reader pause for thought you have a chance to persuade them. You may also gain something akin to the reader’s respect for telling them something they didn’t already know.

After the headline the rest is pretty awful and yes, even we can spot some grammatical errors. Still; that headline is a winner.

great copywriting examples

Opening paragraphs like this aren't written everyday.

We truly love this great copywriting on the left for several reasons. That opening paragraph is a show stopper. We present it as part of our Copy Savvy 101 workshops and can report that 98% of our participants find it funny, attention-grabbing and disarming.

Additionally, we love it because it is exactly what you wouldn’t expect from the client (ABC Shops).  A brave copywriter submitted these words. Kudos to them.

Copywriting tip: when you have a left-of-centre idea never present it for appraisal by itself. Make it the third of three options when it will stand out against the vanilla opposition. This is especially true and easy to do when submitting alternative headlines or quotes for a media release. You may even deliberately choose to present two boring options as alternatives to your preferred, enzaned option. Yes we just made that word up. Feel free to use it.

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Amnesty International Australia direct mail piece

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When it comes to writing direct mail, less is usually more. You need sufficient words to deliver your message and spark emotions but beyond that, each additional word dilutes the essence of what you want to say. 

direct mail example and advice

The front. A strong start.

We recently received this piece of direct mail on the left from Amnesty International Australia.  These are the three key panels.

The first panel the reader sees is strong: a well known line, entirely appropriate to the cause, cleverly reappropriated.



amnesty international direct mail
Could we lose some words? Yes.


On the left is the second panel the reader sees. It’s obviously leading to a third panel. A three-part format is a standard for movies, jokes or direct mail. However it would benefit from a trim.




Copywriting advice for charities
Cut, cut, cut.


This is our recommended edit for the second panel: shorter, sharper.




direct mail copywriting advice
The third panel.

The third panel, here on the left, aims to create a response in the reader. Perhaps this line would have sufficed; Use your right to speak out.


copywriting tips for charities
The shortest panel yet.

This is even shorter and more pointed.

 So much for our unsolicited advice – use the comments section to make yours.

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Need content? Think lists.

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Your website’s visitors and Google both want content – probably much more content than you are providing right now. Some organisations labour under the misapprehension that they don’t have content worth publishing. That’s wrong, unless you have no expertise, no opinions and no advice in which case you have bigger problems than finding web content.

One trick of copywriters that started with lifestyle sections of newspapers and magazine that has spread like syphilis to the online world is the list story.

list based stories for copywriters

List stories offer quick bitey, news nugetts.

The list story is just that – a list devoted to a topic. Brett used to churn some of these out when writing for The Melbourne and Sydney Weeklies. You know the sort of thing: 7 ways to beat the heat this Summer, The four hottest acts of the comedy festival, Three ways to land that big promotion, Six ways to add thousands to the value of your home. And on and on…

The TMW / TSW editorial team would devise a list story when deadlines were tight. It got the job done and no one got hurt.

List stories are everywhere, nowhere more so than online.

Free yourself by using the list format on a regular basis. Sit down, preferably with some smart colleagues and tally up a collection of possible list stories – that’s right a list of lists.

Five ways to reduce your chance of an asthma attack today.

Four ways to talk to your kids about your illness.

Six places you can contact for help if you lose your job this year.

You have the knowledge in your organisation; so use it.

Now in a post-modern twist we have a list-based story from BlogSpot that gives advice on – you guessed it – list-based stories. And no, we won’t now list three reasons to read it. Just read it and if you oike it, share it with the buttons below.

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copywriting advice for social media, online and old fashioned print

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During last week’s Copy Savvy webinar one question posed by all participants was more or less this: “How do we write appropriately for online communications – website, social media and eNewsletters – as compared to print? What should we do differently?”

This is a logical concern which implies that writers should write differently for different media as they have different qualities. This is true, though we think it misses one consideration that is even more important: audience.

We’ve included some tips for online writing below but here’s our point:

The tone you use, the issues you raise and the content you publish should be primarily influenced by your purposes and the audience at which you are aiming; not the medium.

Let’s compare writing a brochure for your broad-based disability service and writing online copy. The brochure will end up in GP waiting rooms, on the trestle table at community expos and on your reception desk. Yes the fact that it is a brochure will influence how you write. More influential though, should be the broad audience to which you are speaking, which has very little awareness of you and very little demonstrated commitment to you. This audience is largely chancing across your information so write accordingly.

People visiting your website are there by choice. You can presume some interest in your content, some connection to your cause albeit fleeting. Depending on the page they are visiting you may be able to assume that they are people with a disability looking for a service, carers of people with a disability, people looking to work at your organisation or prospective donors. Each audience should be addressed with a different tone. Changing tone for each audience is more important than changing tone for the medium.

Look at your website. Does the tone change from section to section to reflect the audience? There should be no one single audience for your website.

Progressing from websites to more social media such as Facebook, eNewsletters or Twitter the audience changes again as much as the media. People who choose to befriend or befollow* you have demonstrated an active interest in you. To some degree these audiences share your concerns, so talk to them in a manner befitting a friend or colleague. You can expect some support, some emotional connection.

social media training example

The Council of Adult Education’s Twittering shows great understanding of the medium. It is fun, personal, helpful. Kudos CAE.

That said; of course there are some rules of thumb to apply to online writing.

Online attention spans are minimal so copy should be shorter. That said, Google likes 600-800 words a page as it believes these sites to be more genuine, more worthy of reference.

Search engine optimisation is key so write with your researched keywords in mind. (More about this in SEO Savvy 101 Thursday October 27). Use them early and often.

Use more images to bring your copy to life.

Change tone based on the section of the website for which you are writing. Are you trying to connect to donors, volunteers, job applicants, service users?

Utilise the ability to link to other articles and audio.

Why wouldn’t you utilise the ability to embed video?

You need to be genuinely committed to creating an ongoing flow of copy over time in the style of a magazine as we’ve written about previously.

social media training

This displays zero understanding of the specific medium.

Social media copy should be the most personal, passionate.

Your copy should read as if it come from a person not an organisation.

Social media is all about sharing content of mutual interest. Not shameless plugging.

*there is no such word

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nonprofit copy and slogans – is yours boring?

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Citizens of Hootville will know that we detest the boring and the bland. We despise copy that fails to acknowledge that your audiences have other (though not better) things to do with their time. 


copywriting advice

Would you donate to Nicole? Brrrr.

We regularly witness boring and bland headlines, eNewsletter subject boxes, merchandise copy and organisational slogans. This leaves us cold – Nicole Kidman cold.

Good copy is infused with the spirit of your organisation – and it ought to be a spirit worthy of attention: one that inspires, empathises and distinguishes.

At the heart of most nonprofit communications is a desire to gain support of readers – membership, donations, assistance to lobby, volunteer and the like.

We don’t know about you but we are rarely inspired to help some bland organisation, which may be why we don’t go out and volunteer for a bank.

Volunteer? Hell; we fail to switch banks or even use the extra services of the bank we do use*; despite the billions spent on advertising. Why? Because they rarely reach us on an emotional level. Emotions are key to inspiring action so aim for them. 

You need to write copy that makes punters feel something. Put into words the feeling might be: “They know how I feel. They get it. These people are onto something. These are people I want to help. These are people who can help me.”

Yeah; stop freeloading you non-members.

Professional sports teams understand this. They live and die on membership and thus invest hugely on recruitment and retention. The vibe is jocular, exciting, militaristic, missionary. Everything is infused with: “We’re in this together. Get with the strength. There’s strength in numbers. Let’s be a part of something together. Non-members aren’t part of the family.”

It’s not quite: “You are with us or you are a big fat loser,” but close.

Wow - that's a lot of bogans.

It’s hard to argue with a nonprofit membership marketing campaign that gains 70,000+ people willing to fork out hundreds a year. In no small part members join to feel a part of something bigger. The marketing understands this. Everything is aimed at sparking an emotional response leading to an action. 

So are ‘real’ nonprofits aiming at our hearts and minds? Two positive examples come to mind.

nonprofit marketing

Don't you want to stick it to the bad guys? We do too. Go Amnesty.

We think this Amnesty t-shirt is a fine example of a nonprofit presenting itself less like a worthy issue and more like a team worthy of support. It displays humour, pride and plays on dozens of corporate slogans that use the same structure: [Company name] [doing something] since [enter year]. Eg: Hootville Communications. Grumpily self-promoting since 1999. Amnesty is aiming at our sense of justice. Bravo.

nonprofit marketing advice
The people reading this are just the sort of people who believe in standing up. Good copy.

“Yeah – we need to fight the bad guys. Thank God someone is. Go Amnesty.”  

We also like Environment Defenders Office Victoria’s slogan. They are a band of lawyers aiming at better environmental outcomes by fighting for law reform and occasionally taking bad guys to court. No one else does this. The slogan? EDO Victoria: The Environment’s Legal Team.


We like it – again it’s confident, battle ready, explains EDO’s point of difference and plays on a phrase we know, ‘legal team’.

“Yeah –  at least some of the smart lawyers are on the environment’s side. I’m sick of the big guys hiring the best lawyers and screwing the environment. Go EDO!” 

Good slogans and good copy all display chutzpah. (Look it up Christians.)  

If you’ve read this far you should read this.

*Hootville uses Coutts and the Reserve Bank of Australia.

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copywriting, social media, eNewsletter and SEO webinars

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It’s official. The internet is for more than just online shopping and pornography. It’s also for training. For the first time we’re offering a smattering of our training via webinar for everyone, everywhere:

Copywriting Savvy 101: write copy worth reading. We ignore spelling and grammar to look at writing in the real world. Improve your releases, letters to editors, opinion pieces, appeal letters, CEO columns and more. How? Well how about getting to know your audiences first, developing a copywriting brief and getting those in charge to adhere to an editorial code of conduct? Plus we’ll work on quotes, headlines, captions and more. (New additional session) Thursday October 20 at 12.30am. Read more…

SEO Savvy 101: Help your website meet friends and influence people as it rises to the top of the Google heap. Nonprofit-related search terms are (relatively) uncompetitive – page one is there for the taking. Our achievable, inexpensive, minimally-nerdy ways to improve your search engine results can be actioned immediately. This is aimed at anyone wanting more from their website – marketers, fundraisers, volunteer co-ordinators and CEOs – not techie types. Thursday October 27, 10am to noon. Read more

Social Media Savvy 101: move from using social media to exploiting it. Learn to battle Facebook’s EdgeRank system and discover ways to build a cult-like Twitter following. Also: finding and deciding content, dealing with negative comments, when to post. We’ll look at nonprofits using social media to its best advantage and yes, we’ll overview Google+. Thursday December 1, 10am to noon. Read more…

eNewsletter / eMarketing Savvy 101: eNewsletters aren’t sexy but they reach more people, more reliably creating more response other options. Save thousands of dollars while reaching thousands of people. Agenda: moving from Outlook to a genuine eNewsletter system, creating and building databases, analysing statistics, finding the right content, trigger emails, tricks of the trade. Thursday December 8, 10am to 12.30pm. Read more…

Of course you can always commission a webinar or workshop for your group. Dozens do and and they’re all getting smarter than you courtesy of: Media Savvy 101, Marketing Savvy 101, Speak Savvy 101 and Online Savvy 101.

Webinars and workshops are backed with notes and follow-up coaching. Glowing testimonials, details and bookings at www.hootville/training or call Brett de Hoedt, Mayor of Hootville Communications 03 9017 1062.      


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bad media releases gain media coverage

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Greg Baum is a prominent sports writer for The Age in Melbourne. He’s a columnist, more than a reporter so he has a longer leash than most. Greg filled his July 30 Final Word column with several hundred final words of scorn for the PR folk behind the launch of the new domestic 20/20 Big Bash cricket league.  They deserved it. Read his piece to gain an insight into how smarter journos see publicists. Here’s how to avoid creating similar responses.

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Copy Savvy 101 class takes shape

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We already have Victorian Youth Mentoring Alliance, Surf Live Saving NSW, Family Relationship Services Australia, Jean Hailes Foundation for Women’s Health, Diabetes Australia Victoria and YMCA Victoria joining us for our first public Copy Savvy 101 webinar.  Et tu Brute?

The first 10 registrants to our copywriting workshop have the first option to have their copy reviewed (mauled) by the group. With the anonymity provided by the web, the feedback should be full and frank so be quick and take up the opportunity.

As of August 16, we are just about full, so quicksticks if you want in.

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