Wednesday, 31 August 2016
The question is, are your company announcements performing as well as they should be?
Companies involved in scientific research and development often make highly valuable discoveries, products or services which, by tapping newly created or already very large markets, could make a material difference to company value. “Game Changing” developments are, by their very nature, new to the market, and as such, require that investors understand the importance and implications of the new development. This can be difficult due to the technical nature of the development and the closed-world of scientific research where scientists talk to other scientists in language that is confined to the scientific community.
It is an information market.
Capital markets trade in information as much as they do in shares. Freely flowing positive news can give impetus to share price appreciation. It is critical in this environment that companies who wish to have brokers and investors talking about their offering, over that of competitors, provide information that is easy to digest and share. Thus any announcement (particularly technical announcements) made by a scientific company should be reviewed to ensure it communicates effectively with its target audience: namely stock brokers and investors.
Understand who you are trying to reach and what you are trying to do.
Stockbroking, and the investment community generally, is a highly educated arena. However, the education is predominately confined to economics and finance, with only a small adjunct of technical/science savvy analysts whose main role is to judge company value on a case by case basis, usually confined to the very specific list of companies that any given broking firm covers. Given the segregated nature of academic specialization here, it is beholden on scientific companies to ensure that their market communications can reach across the divide. You cannot assume that it is a technically savvy analyst who is reading your announcements.
The curious thing about markets is that they can price-in the value of nearly any company development, no matter how technically difficult to understand it is. However this simply will not happen if the market cannot identify the news value, financial value, corporate value or, indeed, understand what you are saying. The net result is commonly no share price movement at all. So, market communications (announcements, presentations etc.) simply must be made with ease of understanding as a primary goal.
With the above in mind, I wrote a short paper on how to approach the problem of "translating" technical material into readable writing for the general market. It contains greater detail than what is here in this post. You can find it towards the bottom of this page: http://www.articul8.com.au/science.html
Clarity is King.
It should be enough to sell the concept of clear communications on one principle alone – the easier it is to understand a company; the easier it is to invest in that company.
The majority of listed companies understand this well and some have entire departments dedicated to good, clear public communications. However it is still common enough, especially in technical disciplines, for this to be overlooked. In the increasingly busy market, this can no longer be ignored. It may be the only way you can cut through with your message.
Given that you already have many very intelligent, well-educated, well-spoken individuals in your company, many of whom probably write very well, you may not need a dedicated communications or PR team. It may be enough to simply outsource the final writing and editing of your announcements. Get it all ready to go, but give the final job to an external expert. This minimizes the time and therefore cost of good communications with the outside world. It also need not jeopardize your obligation to release information to the market “immediately”.
Ultimately, the market can only judge your company based on what it does and what it says. You've got the what-it-does under control, that's how you got to where you are today. But spare a moment for the what-it-says. That may just be the critical difference for the future of your enterprise.
If you think you need help in crafting clear communications, drop us a line!
Thursday, 18 August 2016
Have you stopped to think about all the written content you have out there? You might not realise how important it is. Not because you don't care, of course you do, but simply because you haven't stopped to think about it. Below is a list of copywriting moments for you. Think of it like a copywriting "health checklist" for you and your business.
1. Your website.
Seems like a no-brainer, right? Wrong. A lot of thought needs to go into the copy on your website. It's not enough to have a rudimentary explanation of your service, or a bland product description. You need to ensure that visitors understand how they can benefit from your product or service. What part of their life or business needs help, needs fixing? How does your offer fit into their story? Are you making it easy for them to understand you and see why they need you?
2. Your blog.
The centerpiece. The point of departure; the point of arrival. Your blog is where your story takes shape, and where people come to understand you. They visit your blog to learn. They will come to respect you and follow you. You bring people into your tribe through your blog, and all the other social media should hang from this fruitful tree. The better the writing, the more likely it is that people will stay, and, crucially, the more likely it is that they'll actually understand you. You need to be absolutely sure that what you write really says what you mean. That's where good grammar, punctuation, and spelling is critical; as is a good helping of rhetorical skill.
3. Business copy.
All of it: your brochures, your company reports, your letters. They must read well. Your marketing materials need to be catchy and informative. If not, they simply will not do their job. Selling is a dirty word these days, but selling is what you do. It doesn't have to be like bad daytime TV though. Well-worded copy has a magical ability to persuade without annoying the crap out of people.
4. Editorial content.
Many businesses (and people) write articles and other content for magazines and other publications (both in print and online). Well, they should, that is. Getting your words under somebody else's masthead lends credibility and prestige to your name. It builds your reputation as an expert in your field. Again, those words will need to be well crafted. In fact, you probably won't get published if they're not.
I'm not kidding about the importance of doing all this, and doing it well. Perhaps the only thing worse than not getting your message out there is hashing that message so badly that people actually think you're talking about something else (or worse still, they have no idea what you're talking about at all).
Here's some ideas for working all of the above into a STRATEGY. (Yes, you need one.)
A. Think about what your business really is. Where do you fit into the life of your customer? How will you change their lives? Or, better, how will understanding your customers change you?
B. Get advice. Find a writer who can look at all the aspects of your written content, talk with you and your team, understand you and your business. Then let them at it for a while. You'll see improvements from day one.
C. Get help on any of the above. Don't have time to write a blog? Get it written for you. Why not put out a regular newsletter? Include your market commentary, talk about local events. Send it to your client list. Send it to your leads. Do it regularly. A good writer will even be able to suggest topics and ideas, making it easy for you to get good content out there regularly.
The internet age has reinforced the importance of writing. Google seeks out good writing and grammar in their search. It's more important than ever. Do it well, and do seek help if you need it.
It's also a lot of fun to tell stories. Make yours great.
Wednesday, 17 August 2016
When I'm sitting at a cafe and observing the world and all its delights, I often also peruse the pages of real estate magazines, and one of the things I've noticed is that some real estate brands put in more effort than others. Sure, they all have colour photos of beautiful properties that make me go deep verdant with envy, but some are more glossy, some are more stylish, and some even go the extra mile to include editorial content.
It's one thing to flick casually through a bunch of properties that you may or may not be in the market for, but its another thing entirely for a magazine to capture your attention for minutes at a time while you read the CEO's thoughts, or a lifestyle editorial on a local attraction or event. All that eyeball time, with the brand's logo in your face!
Given the relative ease of publishing these days, having a magazine is basically essential for a successful real estate brand. Having great content is just as important, and not just properties, written articles that engage with your audience. Harcourts and Jellis Craig, as seen above, are particularly fine examples of real estate brands that do this well.
You could say that without written content, your magazine is only doing half its job. But you need good writing, and good writers, and it's imperative that any published copy is well written, reads well, and achieves your objectives, because it will be in circulation for a lot longer than a Facebook post. If you want to do this without taking up all your time, get in touch and we can write it for you!
Tuesday, 16 August 2016
We've moved past the age of detached, impersonal machines and computers. The robot age may soon be upon us, but we're still people (for now) and we care about personal things. You might have thought that having so many things online and digital would have made things more remote and detached, but, contrary to dystopian visions of a mechanised future, the world is drawing in on you--the person behind the screen. Your hopes; your desires; your dreams for the future.
So it is that your presence online needs to be personalised. When people come looking for you, they really do go looking for you - the person; not only the service or goods.
The truth is that finding the service or product you need is ridiculously easy these days. Tap a few keys into Google and bam! you see what you were looking for. But with so many providers competing for your attention, something must stand out. That something is a personal story.
Great products and services have a personal story built into their creation. In fact, as Bernadette Jiwa so eloquently lays it out, the story should really come before the product or service design. And we know this instinctively; you only have to think of the stories behind great inventions. It usually goes like this, "I was thinking about how X was missing from my life, so I sought to find a solution - Y".
In the service industry; in fields like real estate for instance, it is all too common for the only difference between agents to be their logo and branding. But real estate agents are people too (I really believe that: I have worked in the industry myself, although, looking in the mirror now...) and the first contact you usually have with an agent is with the person themselves. The story of the person behind the brand will tell you a lot about the service you can expect.
So when people search for an service, they will often look at the "About Us" or "Meet the Team" page of your website. If that page is boring, or looks like every other agents' page, then they'll move on, and at that point, you've likely lost them.
When I write profiles for people to use online (or elsewhere) I am always struck by the many and varied personal life stories people have. Peoples' lives are fascinating, and there's always something worth sharing. It draws you in. It makes you feel like you know them. And when you feel like you know someone, you also start to feel like you understand them and can trust them. That is the first and most important step to gaining business. The internet has changed nothing in this regard, instead, it has made it easier to filter the information. Without a personal profile for your potential customers to read and get to know you with, you'll be lost in the crowd. Make sure you stand out, and get help if you need it to write your profile well.
Monday, 15 August 2016
Real Estate is a seriously tough, competitive business. Every agent knows that. And every agent knows that the first and most difficult task is securing listings. They are the foundation of your business. Successful agents know that if they have a good stream of listings, their sales and commissions will follow. Real estate is really about having something to sell; more than it is about being able to sell.
In any given area, however, potential sellers have a raft of choice when it comes to picking an agent. You will rarely (if ever) have a monopoly. So something has to make you stand out and be the person a seller trusts with their multi-hundred-thousand dollar (or million dollar plus, as is likely in Australian cities), investment or home.
You could use the old tactic of blitz advertising and promotion. Plenty of agents do. You can have your photo on all the signs and bus stops. Be all over the newspaper. Make a television ad. But this is hugely expensive, and of dwindling value in today's media-rich world. And it does not raise trust levels.
Sellers are now only a few mouse clicks and keystrokes away from detailed information on their suburb, sales statistics, and reviews of local agents. You can bet your bottom dollar they have already found you without reading their local bus stop advertisement. But they haven't just found you, they've also found everything written by you, and written about you. You want to be sure that this is positive stuff; that it steers them in your direction.
The only way to effectively do this is to be putting your word out there. Be it in newsletters, blogs, social media, even interviews with the press, you need to be putting your opinions out there. You need to be the expert that a seller can trust.
It does take work to hold people's attention - you need to give them some interesting information. And not just on the property market; it works best when you also present yourself as a real human with community interests. All this takes time, but it is arguably the best marketing dollar you will spend.
Yes, it can take time out of your day to write a blog. Or, you can get someone to do it for you. Yes, it takes time to produce a newsletter. Or, you can get someone to do it for you. Either way, this is how you connect with people, and that is how they will end up choosing you for their next sale.
I am not going to sell my own house. No, I would get an experienced agent who's far better at selling my house than I am. Likewise, if you're not fantastic at the keyboard (and we can't all be top-notch at everything, can we?), then outsource to someone who is.
These days, putting your well-worded written opinion out there, regularly, is a major factor in being the agent of choice when it comes time for that choice. Don't let your years of experience get lost in the crowd. Get writing today!
Friday, 12 August 2016
ANY WAY... I have the solution!!! There is a cheap and cost effective way to remove this irritant from your life! With a few simple items, you too can enjoy the smooth glide of accurate mouse pointing!
Step 1: Take a plain ol' manilla folder and cut it in half so that you have a nice flat piece of card.
Step 2: Tape it down firmly and flatly to your stylish glass top desk.
Step 3: Put mouse on it and start using!!
SIMPLE! Problem solved! Plus you could even scribble notes on your new mouse pad (that only cost cents to build!)
There. Done. It's ok, this advice was free. You can thank me later.
Thursday, 11 August 2016
Given the huge and predictable excitement surrounding the sporting congregation in a certain South American country, it was an interesting time to listen to a panel of scientists, business leaders, and one comedian speak about the unfortunately low status of science in Australian society last night at the ACMD Research Week public debate.
Sport in Australia is, well, the national religion. And we're not just tunnel-visioned towards one code, such as Soccer, as many countries are. Oh no, here in the Land Down Under, sport of any kind is celebrated, and sporting success is the stuff of myth and legend. In some parts of the country we even race cane toads and place bets on the outcome. So it's hardly surprising that sport garners more attention on the pages of the news and in public life generally.
Science on the other hand, an area in which Australia excels and has been a world leader over the years, suffers from 3rd or 4th rate status. Strike that--it really doesn't have status. A lot of money and effort is put into scientific research here, but it is losing its market share. Why is that? Why aren't people interested in science? Why don't they follow scientific progress like they follow sport?
That last question is ridiculous, is the short answer. The two aren't the same thing. Not even remotely. Sport is a community event and a competition. It has a clearly defined goal, set rules, and a definite outcome. Science pretty much has none of these attributes. Goals, as close as they come to goals, that is, are simply tests of hypotheses. Rules? Not really! Science is remarkably fluid, changeable, and prone to revision. As for outcomes, well, as they say, you can only disprove a hypothesis, never prove one. In other words, even the victories are negative, in a sense.
But science does have fabulous stories and fantastic people, just like sport does. It has heroes and heroines, and it has long, trying and amazing journeys. Finding those people and telling those stories will be the key to raising science's status.
Ultimately, what really hooks people into something is the narrative. We just love a good story. So does the media. Science has all that, but it needs more storytellers. Raising science's status is genuinely important, because in this day and age, high profile equals dollars. Science needs more. Scientists and administrators everywhere need to realise that having a continuing conversation with the public is how other fields got so big in the public eye. So, science, remember--it's no good having a great story if you don't tell it.
If you are a scientist, or a manager of scientists, and you would like help with telling these stories, don't hesitate to drop us a line at articul8.com.au -- an actual degree qualified and experienced scientist wrote this piece and he's ready to help you!
Sunday, 7 August 2016
It was busy last week in the Articul8 command centre. This was helped by the plethora of lifestyle activities that Melbourne has on offer - always something to do; always something to write about!
Kicking off, we wrote about the upcoming Melbourne Spring Fashion Week for one of our regular clients. A huge lineup of Australian and International designers and fashion heavyweights will descend on the Melbourne CBD including Thurley, Jason Grech, Gwendolynne, Aurelio Costarella, Rachel Gilbert, Carla Zampatti, One Day, CristahLea and Bianca Spender. This being the premiere fashion event of the season, it's sure to create a buzz and have the city looking its suave best. Get your hair done and your outfits ready! See more at msfw.melbourne.vic.gov.au
Some time had to be spent on keeping up to date on the real estate market, where things seem never to stop. The east coast of Australia is looking like having an absolute screamer of a spring market, and many of our clients are actively encouraging vendors to get on the market early to avoid having their listing swamped by the spring surge.
Speaking of real estate, Harcourts Victoria and the Harcourts Foundation are busy preparing for their annual Walk A Mile fundraiser on Friday September 2. Harcourts staff, family, friends and supporters across Australia will be walking down a different path and joining forces with White Ribbon Australia to take a stand against violence. Join them from 11am until 1pm at
the Southbank Spillway in high heels (yes, the blokes too). To participate (it’s just $25) or donate, please call 1300 856 773. For further information, please see www.whiteribbon.org.au/events/walk-a-mile-in-their-shoes-victoria
The Melbourne International Film Festival is in full swing, and we have been keeping up with all that is brilliant on screen. So much great film from Australia and beyond, and yet so little time! This premier event is only on a little longer, check out the program here: miff.com.au
Soon we're off to relax to sultry latin jazz at Melbourne's newest and best jazz club, Bird's Basement for their Latin Jazz Month in August. Bird's Basement has direct links to the iconic New York jazz scene, and we can't wait to see what they have in store. Might get some delicious tapas while we're there!
And if that get's too much, we're going to visit the Mornington Peninsula's famous hot springs.
So much to do, so much to write, but we love it and we can fit something in for you. If you need a write up, or to craft a blog post, or need something written for your website that is both engaging and optimised, get in touch today!
Tuesday, 2 August 2016
Storytelling is the default human mode. I can't help it; you can't help it; it is how we relate to the world. Everything that we see, hear, touch, smell, and taste fits somewhere into the narrative of our lives. And if you don't believe me, ask yourself this, "why am I reading this blog post?"
Still here? Good. Let me tell you about stories. For some reason, probably related to staying alive in jungles and on plains in spite of lions and snakes, our brain is a relational machine that links events to memories and then threads them together in story form. We hear the rustle in the bushes, link that to the story told about a distant cousin ambushed by a hungry lion, and depart from said bushes in a hurry, aided by a bolt of adrenaline. Or we see a stick on the ground and our first thought is "snake!" Although these reactions are automatic and inevitable, they are a form of pattern recognition that is linear and temporal in nature. That is to say, one thing leads to another.
One thing leads to another. It's the story of our lives. But all good stories have a protagonist, or hero, and the most important hero is you. You are the protagonist of your own dramatic arc. And we're all the most important person in our own stories. As a result, we tend to characterize ourselves. You know what you're like, don't you. You've even used that expression I bet - "... and, you know me, I went and did ..."
When a brand sends out any marketing material (ads, blogs, packaging, social media) it should be appealing to that inner protagonist. To do that, the brand needs to decide what type of protagonist they have in mind, and what kind of story they want to tell. Done correctly, this will result in an instantly engaging experience for the consumer.
There are too many articles and books on this topic to name here, suffice to say, sitting atop the tree is one Carl Gustav Jung. Although his (and Freud's) applications to clinical psychology and psychiatry have been roundly criticized, Jung's discussion of archetypes remains important to the foundations of human storytelling (and probably to anthropology generally).
As the diagram at the top of this post suggests, there are different 'modes' of protagonist and story. Each brand has its own mode. The successful ones stick to their archetype. Google is the Sage, Dove the Innocent, Apple the Magician and of course, Nike the Hero. By framing their campaigns within these archetypes, they ensure that anyone who fancies themselves as that kind of person will find a friend in their brand. You then attach the right kind of story for the archetype you wish to use and there you have it!
Consider a real estate agency. They might think that they really just want to be the Everyman, the regular guy who belongs. They think that this engenders trust because who doesn't trust Bob next door, right? This is perhaps a faulty strategy because the Everyman does not stand out from the crowd. He's just an extra.
We all know that real estate agents stand out (mostly because of the suit, the prestige car, and the loud voice at auctions). Basically nothing about the real estate agent says "Everyman", so it's unwise to try to appeal to that archetype. Instead, agents should frame themselves as, say, a blend of Jester and Sage. Sure, they're fun loving and want to get the most out of life, but they're also wise in the ways of the market.
Anyone who wants to buy a new home wants these two things - a great new home, and a clever purchase. Anyone looking to sell a home wants to know that their agent knows the market, but also that he's bringing a whole caravan of buyers, like he's the Pied Piper of Property or something. If you can get these fun and wise messages out there, you will be top of people's mind when they go to choose an agent.
Stories are memorable; plain vanilla facts and information are not. Also, good rhetorical skill is essential to telling a story memorably. You liked the alliteration of Pied Piper of Property, didn't you? Yes, seductive stories sell.
You want to be memorable.
It's worth remembering that big companies start small, and famous brands were unknown once. So it is that no company attempting to grow should forget the power of the story they tell. Consistency is the key to a developing brand. Know your audience type. Know the story you need to tell for them. Stick to it and your brand will be entertaining, engaging, and might, just might, become like a virus of the mind, one they'll spread across the world. That's the kind of pandemic you want to see!
Monday, 1 August 2016
No, it's not that they will both drain the life out of you.
It's not even that the undead have a lot of time to read and therefore learn a lot of words.
With enough time, we could all gain better vocabularies than Shakespeare who, at around 30,000 words*, is often thought to be at the apex of such things. Most of us blunder about with only 10-20,000 words at our command. Having said that though, Shakespeare was not the most eclectic word user of the great writers. Marlowe is thought to have had a greater number at his disposal, and certainly used more different words per play than Shakespeare, as did Jonson. Some assert that Shakespeare typically tops the list simply because he wrote more plays. Time, it seems, carries great lexicographical weight. One could expect a timeless bloodsucker to know more words than anyone else.
Still, enormous numbers of words are not the connection between vampires and grammar. That was, I'm afraid, a blood-red herring.
The connection is far more interesting than that. Not that vampires aren't already interesting enough. All those questions of life without life, the meaning of death, the barely (or not at all) concealed sexual energy and symbolism threading through the tales of lustful fangs and dripping necks. It's enough to make you want to sit in front of the tv and binge-watch True Blood (come on, admit it, you already have).
True Blood gives us a clue to the connection. When Vampires on the show use their supernatural powers to render their victim open to persuasion, and thus convince them to open the door or other such plot-turning devices, they are said to "Glamor" their victim. (Or "glamour" as it is spelled everywhere except America.)
Glamour is a word people associate with celebrity and fashion. A star is glamorous on the red carpet. It suggests a certain allure; a captivating appeal.
Aha! So someone who is somehow "otherworldly" to us, by virtue of their fame, or money, or status, has the ability to magically gain and hold our attention. And then they persuade us to buy things like watches, cars and shampoo. So they're a bit like True Blood's vampires, taking us into a trance, making us suggestible, and then controlling our behaviour. Celebrities huh!
This sense of glamour is actually as old as the word itself. Because glamour is actually a Scottish variant of the word grammar that dates back to the early 18th century (as a noun, and then we see 100 years later in 1814 the first verb usage as seen now in True Blood). The magical connotation stems from the fact that the word in its Latin and French roots implied education in language as well as spells and incantations. The occult and language were close bedfellows and a person educated in grammar knew both.
So it was that through the 15th and 16th centuries and beyond, to be highly educated in the arts and letters was thought, essentially, to give someone the ability to enchant the less erudite. There was a certain magical aura to the highly educated, just as there was a magic surrounding those of high social status, such as lords and kings. Little wonder then that to have grammar had a certain allure. Indeed grammar slots in nicely with words like alluring, enchanting, spellbinding and captivating.
So, what do vampires and grammar have in common? Well, it turns out that vampires are masters of grammar. It probably explains the pale complexion of your primary school English teacher. Quickens the pulse, it does. Better bring the garlic to your next class...
*Estimates vary from the mid 20 to high 60 thousands. Which is as much to say we don't know how many words he actually knew, we just know how many are in his plays. Even then, the count is muddled by whether one should count each variant of the same word or not. If you don't, Willy comes down to normal human numbers. Myth busted folks. See more here: http://www.dispositio.net/archives/501