Writers: Creative. Imaginative. Poetic. Scientific?

I know at one time in my life I wrote reams of poems and short stories. I started a million novels. I scribbled out every last emotion in binders full of journals. I was an English major specializing in creative writing. I let my imagination run and pen run even more.

I still claim the traits that make me a writer: My creativity, my perceptions, my love of a well-written passage that shakes the bones of me. But I’ve spent the last two decades fostering the other side of my brain – the more logical, scientific part that’s needed in marketing and communications.

And so now, my writing is still creative, but it’s also:

Concise: My job is to get people to take action, whether it’s to buy, click, sign up, fund, or donate. I have to be creative and imaginative, but in only four lines, or one button, or 600 pixels, or 140 characters (ideally 120 for RTs), or 100 words (with just enough being SEO keywords or linkable to specific landing pages).

Vetted: I write in line with voice and messaging guides, whether they’re established by others or by me in defining the identity and purpose of an organization or company. I build on the brand identity, congruent with the terminology, phrasing, and positioning of each company’s desired image and strategic vision.

Attention-getting: I am always after an intriguing subject line, perfect headline, or strong P.S. – whatever it will take to motivate the audience to act. I know when to be clever, and when to cut to the chase.

Sliced and diced: I generate content that can be repurposed for print, web, and social media, to get the most bang for the marketing buck. I can write one white paper and rework and recast it for a press release, ad, tweet, blog, brochure, and web page, for maximum impact, with zero hand-holding.

Strategic. Finally, I don’t write just to write. My words are positioned to make something happen: a click-through, phone call, grant award, or purchase. And while I do not cure diseases or advance scientific innovation, I do write copy that is planned out, logical, and tested to meet objectives.


Michael Fitzsimmons. He checked out of the bourgeois motel, but could he write for SEO?

I am no longer a young English major. I do not stare off into the sunset, formulating the perfect sentence to capture the meaning of life. I am not the passionate hipster writer from “Peggy Sue Got Married.” (I will never “push myself from the dinner table and say, ‘No more Jell-O for me, mom!’”) And I may not ever finish a novel.

But I am a writer. A good one. Call me.

What’s in a Name?

Would a rose by any other name still smell as sweet? I doubt it.

We all love the signature romantic scent of roses, but I venture that there is just as much appreciation for their actual name: The soft push of the “R” as we form the word, the soothing long “O,” the “S” that could so easily be a “Z.”

Oh, suppose a rose had some other name like hand, or food, or arm, or face, or, say carnation. Would it smell as sweet? No, it would not.

Sorry Juliet, you cannot doff thy name. The importance of a good name – something that defines, packages, and can be easily digested – cannot be denied.

While this is may be news to a Capulet, it’s not news to marketers and their “dri-fit,” “quicker picker uppers,” and Certs with Retsyn. And it’s certainly not news to politicians – at least some of them.

Mike Lofgren, author of The Party’s Over, explores “How Republicans have mastered the art of communicating with ordinary people in their own vernacular, while Democrats remain tone-deaf and tongue-tied.” Lofgren explains it’s why “entitlements” can be taken away, but “earned benefits” should be protected. It’s why “Death Tax” is more ominous than “Estate Tax.” And why the cumbersome “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” got abbreviated – and became much more controversial – with the catchier “Obamacare.”

No one can underestimate the power of a name. For marketing and communications professionals, it’s what makes a “brand refresh” an easier sell than a “rebranding initiative.” For businesses, it’s what makes a “Lunch & Learn” sexier than staff development or a sales presentation. For my kids, it’s what makes “Mommy’s Five-Food-Group Special” more enticing than my sad plating of cheese, crackers, peanut butter, carrots, and applesauce.

Because what’s in a name is everything, and it’s important to retain the dear perfection of everything that comes with it: the understanding of the audience, the encapsulating of the product, the rhythm of the words, and the quickness of the association. Naming products and processes is a chance to create something new, give it meaning and share it. It establishes a common language, and it gives people something to ask for – by name.

It’s smart to do it. And it’s imperative to do it right. Sorry Juliet.

Facebook — Your Personal Brand

I’m amazed at how often I glance quickly at my Facebook feed and do a double take and what someone wrote. It will throw me off not because of the content of the update, but by who it came from. I’ll think, so and so said that? What’s wrong with her? Where did that come from? Then I realize it wasn’t a post from, say, Stephanie Jones, it was from Stephanie Taylor. Ah, of course. Then it all makes sense.

It’s at these times I realize the personal brands we’re all knowingly or unknowingly developing on Facebook. I’m not talking about the obvious “likes” or subscribes that companies are stalking for their target marketing. Or about the “Look-at-my-beautiful-family-on-our-great-vacation-didn’t-I-do-well-for-myself-after-high-school” Facebook images that people are intentionally nurturing.

I’m talking about how personalities and voices bleed through people’s posts without them even realizing it. This is not about people’s self-defining and usually limited subject matter (that’s a whole other topic), but their expressions and wording.

There are people who are comfortable posting their favorite videos and exclaiming, “Love this!” And there are people who can pull off any use of the word “Word” with the bonus misspelling as “Wurd.” There are the “Okay kids” posters, the “swear word” posters, the typo posters, the people who don’t know when to use their, they’re, or there posters, and the “Do-what-I-did-because-I’m-better-than-you-and-you-should-be-like-me” posters.

These people lay claim to their styles and phraseologies, so that the same words or expressions coming from anyone else just sound inauthentic and echo like a wrong note.

I would guess that if we stripped out everyone’s names from Facebook but kept the updates, we would still be able to attribute statuses to their authors. We would know who among our 600 friends would be the one to say “Woot, woot,” or “I don’t EVEN…,” or “This is to funny.” I would know, as I do, what’s from Stephanie Jones and what’s from Stephanie Taylor.

This is the power of words, and what our moms have always told us: It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. With every post, with every choice in words, knowingly or unknowingly, we build our brand. Good or bad. Wurd.