Monthly Archives: September 2013

The Critic’s Oath

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Dealing with feedback and criticism is part of a copywriter’s lot. That said, it can be soul-destroying.  It makes copywriters conservative.

copywriting feedback
Everyone’s a critic. Like these two proto trolls.

Nobody helps you with the first draft but after you’ve toiled away everyone’s a critic. We hate that so we’ve written a Critic’s Oath which may turn the tide of feedback from subjective to constructive.

It also shows that you take your writing seriously. You may want to pin this on the noticeboard in the office kitchen or read it aloud over the intercom on the hour, every hour.

Hootville’s Critic’s Oath

Writing is a lonely and often thankless task. Scribes toil away isolated and ignored, only to have strangers and colleagues throw in their two cents worth by the dollar, just as the presses are set to roll. We humbly offer this oath as a way to ensure your criticism falls on the side of constructive not destructive.

Please cast aside your News Limited tabloid, be upstanding, hand on heart as you forget what they taught you about writing in school and recite the following:

I promise to be a good critic. This doesn’t mean I shall praise everything put before me but it does mean that I:

  • will sit down to read the words wearing the shoes of the intended audience – not my own – as good writing is all about the audience;
  • find ways to reduce length, never add;
  • endeavour to add interest, humanity and excitement;
  • value “effective” over “nice” understanding that being direct, quirky or challenging is more important than being pleasant;
  • clarify and correct factual errors and clear up confusion;
  • understand that changing: “Reserve your place today.” to “Call today to reserve a seat.” improves nothing;
  • will refer to and respect the original brief which specifies the purpose of the communication and the approach of the writer;
  • respond quickly and with certainty as deadlines wait for no one.

Thankyou. You are now a better critic and a better person.


Developing key messages (misunderstood and over-rated)

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Prospective clients often request workshops or training to “develop key messages”.

Often the underlying belief of the clients is that the right words, in the right order will make a world of difference. If that were these case we’d all be out of work.

developing key messages

Well this is one technique...

We sometimes surprise clients by explaining that Hootville is NOT a true believer in key messages per se. Words only carry so much impact. The finding of such a workshop should influence marketing across the board.

Also – we think that developing quality key messages should be based on two prior steps:

1. knowing and defining your brand’s personality,

2. understanding your audience extremely well.

Only then can you develop messages that will cut through. Trying to just get some good-sounding words to be rolled out as slogans or soundbites is plain shabby. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that a slogan is a key message, nor that any one message will change the world.

Far more than just words on a page or screen, the messages you develop in a key messaging workshop should influence all your marketing: presentations and speeches, the nature of events you hold, your look and feel, the media coverage you seek.

Tips on creating effective key messages. They should be:

true to the brand’s values and personality. You must be able to deliver on the impression you give via your messages. Don’t claim inclusiveness if you can’t deliver.

specific, not generic. A key message shouldn’t be interchangeable with other key messages about other brands in your category. Everyone claims to be friendly, professional and passionate. How about being maverick, determined or long-term in your approach? (Warning – see the first dot point above.)

pitched at the right tenor – neither too dramatic nor flippant. Eg: don’t attempt to play on people’s patriotism / altruism if this is a step too far. Humans are generally self-centred but many nonprofit sector key messages aim to hit upon audiences’ idealism and community spirit. Here’s a prime example of a messages that are entirely out of synch with the way an audience might see and feel about an issue.

resonant with the specific audience at that specific time about that specific issue. This is hard for many smaller marketing operations wishing to reach as many as possible, as cheaply as possible. This is understandable but a scattergun approach yields less results.

brief and simple;

• aimed to create a certain thoughts, feeling and actions in the audience. (See below)

action-orientated. Attempt to encourage a behaviour – far more achievable than a change of attitude.

• based on more than just reason. Emotions inspire people into action. If logic was enough, many of us would be out of a job.

• addressed what you truly know of the audience including their motivations, anxieties, incentives and the sort of value propositions they like to see.

More on Think…Feel…Do.

We want to develop messages that influence people’s behaviour. If we go along with the broad observation that our thoughts influence our feelings which in turn influence our behaviours we need to start with the right thought.  This is a way to evaluate prospective messages. Will they make people think certain thoughts, create certain emotions and in turn take certain actions.




I can do this


Make a call right now

This is for people like me


Visit the website

I will be well supported


Attend a meeting / event

Not too big an undertaking


Refer a friend

This will be fun


What a great idea


I get / understand this idea


Want help with this? Call Brett at Hootville: 03 9017 1062.


Tacky tie-ins

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pr advice for marketers

On top of everything, it costs MORE than double the 9-hole fee to play 18 holes.

We are all for timing one’s marketing to tie-in with public events, milestones or catalysts but these two PRfails are just awful.

Mind you, if we don’t play golf at these crazy prices (left), the terrorists win. You can tell how respectful they are by the capital C in Commemorate.

And then there’s this awful attempt by a marketing blogger to explain how the attacks of 2001 created sweeping changes in…marketing. It was written in September 2006 and is a sad example of an author who wants to appear thoughtful, respectful and relevant – when all they are doing is trying to fill some space with enough keywords to attract some 9-11 anniversary internet traffic. Worth a read – if only to cringe. It’s title: September 11th – a marketers reflection. Cringing yet? The end bit is glorious.



PR tip: 97.9% of journalists lie about influence of PR

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Oh dear- pride is an awful thing. It makes people tell fibs as this recent survey of journalists reported in The Sell-In so ably displays.

pr tips for publicists

Our finding? 97.9% bollocks.

The question: Have you ever been talked into reporting something that you has decided to ignore following a call from a PR person?”

Guess what? 97.9% of journalists said NO. Well that would be that then, for publicists everywhere. Put down the phone and wait to be summoned. Happily that ain’t how it works. Follow-up calls can and do work, every day.

Journalists will tell you: “If I am interested I’ll get back to you.” but journalists are busy people – they forget, other priorities take over, they deal with what is right in front of them at a moment in time.

Brett knows this from experience – he was a busy journalist himself once upon a time.

In all our time as publicists Hootville got exactly zero calls from journalists telling us that after due consideration they had decided not to do a story we pitched them. This is despite 1000 media hits over a decade or so. Of those 1000 hits maybe 300 would not have happened without a follow-up call.

Extra calls do get results for publicists, even if that result is a definite NO. A definite refusal allows you to move on to the next victim. And even a brief phone call allows you to understand the journalist better for the next pitch.

Journalists will always tell you that PR people are nothing but a nuisance; at best a means to information but never – never – the source of a great story but we are – all the time.

Otherwise there’d be no fashion, real estate, food, entertainment, TV, movie and showbiz reviews or celebrity coverage. No interviews with authors, actors, singers. Have we got to half of all media coverage as yet? Let’s say 30%.

Throw in those big serious interviews with overseas politicians, public figures, corporate honchos and thought leaders. Getting closer to half way. Add the “exclusives” that litter television news (“be the first to see details of the new rail line / highway / stadium.”) Now we’re at 50%.

Most sport coverage outside game time is PR-driven as is anything involving a media conference or photo call –  and that means most police and crime reporting. And most big leaks are leaked directly from publicists. That’s close to 6o%.

95% of big social issue stories – that’s what we all push – are entirely PR driven. Equally so for scientific and technology stories.

Don’t let the journalists’ party line dull your desire to make a call and a follow-up. Calls – more than emails and on a par with tweets – get results. Nobody ever says they are influenced by advertising either – but that ain’t true neither.

Tips for getting a successful pitch:

  • Have a well-developed story idea.
  • Sell the talent.
  • Select a relevant journalist and outlet.
  • Pitch well – be succint, down-to-earth, pragmatic. Do not be dumb, ditzy or boring.
  • Never, ever start with: “Just calling to see if you got my email…”

More on the art of pitching stories to media here. And if you pitch but once a year this is a MUST read.

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Jobville launches Facebook page with ASUS tablet giveaway

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It is low self-esteem that drives us to give ourselves away like this? We know - who cares? offers every Australian nonprofit and community sector organisation the opportunity to recruit staff, volunteers, interns and board members for free. Nobody else does this.

Beyond the site, email and Twitter, we’ve now bowed to pressure and established a Facebook page which features every single job we advertise. It also includes some other workplace-related stories.

Like the page before 5pm Sydney time Friday September 20 and you’ll enter the draw for an ASUS Memo Pad tablet.  Simple. Now go and like us.