Business Writing

Writing for Print Ads – Say Less

Posted by on Feb 24, 2014 in Business Writing | 0 comments

Writing for Print Ads – Say Less

Have you ever heard that phrase “less is more?” I have. That’s why I’m mentioning it. If I hadn’t, I’d probably have started with something completely different. That aside, “less is more,” is a pretty stupid thing to say. Because less is clearly less. I mean, even if you have two poisonous snakebites and your hiking partner has four poisonous snakebites, you’re probably more likely to survive, but you still have fewer snakebites. Less is never more. Otherwise mathematics falls apart and society collapses.

What we’re trying to say here is “less is occasionally better.” This is critical to remember when you’re writing for print advertisements. People read articles for the words. They look at advertisements to see big glossy pictures of good-looking people enjoying a nutritious breakfast in an unsettlingly clean kitchen or a hawk flying over a crystal clear mountain lake. Then for some reason they think…

“Oh wow, that’s a pretty scene, I’d better invest in some new tires!”

Remember that your words are simply a bit of information on the periphery of the real draw – the picture. If your advertisement is too wordy, the reader will probably just see it as an uninteresting article and skip right over it. Truthfully, it’s the biggest mistake that most startup businesses make. A print ad is not the place to tell the entire history of your plucky little company and every one of the nine hundred services you offer. It’s the place to put an engrossing image, a catchy tag line, and only the most crucial information.

When writing for advertising copy it’s easy to panic and think you’re not getting your money’s worth. I mean, you’re paying for a whole page – you have to let the public know about your landscaping services, and your botanical knowledge, and how great you are at building retaining walls, and oh yeah, there was that time we painted a lounge chair, and right, right, once Brad stepped on a really pesky spider and the client was thrilled! What if people DON’T FIND OUT ABOUT IT?

Want proof that you don’t need to do that? I’m going to flip through the last magazine I got and count the words in the first ten advertisements I see. (Ones that actually include text) And no, it’s not a dirty magazine unless you’re some oddball who’s obsessed with illustrations of kettlebell workouts.

*Note, the words I’m counting are simply in the text. I’m not including those odd little disclaimers at the bottom.

Product — Words

1) Truck — 47
2) Protein Supplement — 99
3) Hair Product — 104
4) Garage Door — 58
5) Workout Drink — 17
6) Almonds — 44
7) Luxury Car — 75
8) Vitamins — 95
9) Whey Supplement — 80
10) GPS system — 38

So what’s the average number of words for these ten randomly selected cross-genre advertisements?

Average words — 66

Now obviously that’s a small sample size, and if you’ll look at the supplement companies, they’ll trend more toward wordier advertisements simply because showing a bottle of powder isn’t quite as effective as a picture of a truck towing the moon through downtown Kansas City. In their particular industry, you have to explain that your product has some crazy new molecular breakthrough that will allow you to deadlift two more pounds. Thus, they tend to need more words.

But chances are, you don’t.

So think about it – if you only had sixty-six words to use, what would you do to highlight your business or the business you’ve been hired to write for? Here are some tips.

1) Sum up what the business does in a simple tag line. It doesn’t have to be the catchiest thing in the damn world as long as the reader knows what your business or product is. If you sell dirt and your tag line is “We know dirt,” you’ve done your job. And you’ve only used three words. People will read it and think, “Hey, these guys know their dirt. If I ever need dirt, I know who to call.”

2) Succinctly describe what’s unique about the business or product. If the dirt you’re selling is nitrogen enhanced, mention that. If your dirt is of better quality and yet cheaper than your competitors, mention that. If the best thing about your dirt is that it makes one hell of a pile, well I guess uh… mention that. What you don’t need to do is go on about the nitrogen enhancement process, or that you buy cheap from a wholesaler just outside of Toledo. It’s not a critical piece of information in relation to whether the customer will eventually make a purchase. They don’t care WHY the dirt is uh… dirt cheap, (sorry, I had to) they just care that it is.

3) Casually mention the great things the reader COULD do with the product. “Imagine a summer salad of organic vegetables grown entirely in your own backyard. With Mudd Brothers Dirt, you don’t have to imagine anymore.” It’s the same thing with any business. Get people thinking about the amazing future that awaits if that future includes your product. But don’t go overboard. Don’t start talking about the ripped abs, modeling contract, and extravagant yachts they can expect from eating vegetables grown in Mudd Brothers Dirt. Unless that’s your whole strategy. “It all started with Mudd Brothers Dirt!” (Why do I have the sinking feeling I just came up with a marketing campaign I’ll see during the next Super Bowl, sigh, and tell no one in particular, “That was my idea.” Then someone will snicker and I’ll yell “What? You don’t believe me? Check my blog last February, jagoff! That’s it, let’s fight. C’mon. C’mon. Let’s go Snickerin’ Sam!”)
*Sorry, I was a little drunk in those parentheses.

4) Give ‘em the website. That’s the place to mention the nitrogen infusion process and give a shout out to Stacey in Toledo. The key is to get them intrigued enough by your advertisement to voluntarily go get the rest of the information on their own.

And the great thing – it’s not as hard as you’d think to do those four things in sixty-six words. It’s all about choosing the right words and the correct message.

In other words, “less is occasionally better.”

You hearing me there hair product?

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The 4 Best Questions to Ask Vague Clients

Posted by on Jan 25, 2014 in Business Writing | 0 comments

As we’ve gone over a couple of times in previous blogs which you can read, here, here, and ALSO here, (But not here because this is a link to a hockey score from last month that we threw in for no apparent reason. Nice work, Maple Leafs) vague clients who give you no particular direction can be very tough to write for. Having the right questions handy, however, can make the process much, much easier. Here are four of them – because that’s the arbitrary number of questions we decided to highlight. There are literally trillions of questions you can ask your clients, although realistically most of them won’t help you much. Some examples of questions that WON’T help are….

“What are your thoughts on the designated hitter?”

“Is a dragon still a dragon if it can’t fly or breathe fire? Or at that point is it just a dinosaur?”

“How many raisins can you fit in your shoe?”

“Do you have any surefire ways to get pee out of a mailbox?”

“Hats. They’re sure, something, huh?”

There’s a pretty damn good chance none of those questions will help. So let’s move on to the questions that will.

1) What is your final objective? What do you ultimately want to get from this project?

I recently wrote a short film for a client who didn’t give me much to go on at first. He was a very visual client with a passion for high-end automobiles. All I knew based on his pitch was that he wanted a short film with a lot of badass cars in it. He was very thorough and when we met, he provided me with an entire folder full of bright, colorful images of engines, tires, and slick paint jobs. He was very enthusiastic, but when I pressed him for more, he’d send me a few more images of Lamborghinis and Ferarris instead of, ya know, plot points or a direction for the story, which was what I needed.

You’ll get these type of clients a lot – people who are great to work with and very passionate about their ideas, but simply have no knowledge of what your objective as a writer happens to be. They aren’t trying to be difficult, they simply don’t realize that what they’re providing doesn’t really assist you. It would be like if I commissioned him to do an engine rebuild by telling him, “I want my car to look freaking awesome going through downtown. And like on the bridge. It’s got to just make sweet ass sounds going over the bridge.” Me telling him all the places I wanted my car to look cool doesn’t give him any tangible information about the engine itself or what I wanted rebuilt.

Asking about his end game helped me immensely on the project. It turned out that he was an actor who was looking to star in a film that he hoped would feature his diverse on-screen abilities. Also, he wanted to feature the upscale cars because he had access to some amazing vehicles through friends at car shows and figured it was something unique his film could include that most others couldn’t. His instincts were correct. What local filmmakers have access to their buddy’s Lambo collection? For free?

This dude. And that’s about it.

Those two bits of information made it much, much easier to construct a script. Why? Because I found out his main objective – to feature his acting abilities in an action script that contained a lot of the cars he had access to. I now knew that his character had to be diverse and thrown quickly into varying scenarios that would let him show both a tough side and a softer side. I now had a framework to build a story around. Now every time I came up with a new idea, I could ask myself if that idea fit into the framework. If it did, I explored it. If it didn’t, I scrapped it. And together, we came up with a pretty sick little action script.

2) What is the tone we’re trying to establish?

This is a critical question and asking it will save you a lot of wasted work. This is probably the area where most clients and writers miss the high five most often. How can you and your client end up with completely different concepts about a project when you’re discussing exactly the same ideas? Trust me, if you don’t ask this question, it’s very possible – even highly likely.

I was once asked to write the landing page for a law firm that was described to me as “young & hip.” I was given the following overview of the company and a bunch of facts and figures about what they did.

We’re edgy, funny, and cool and that’s what we want to portray to the public through our website.

The trouble was I never asked them for their particular definition of “edgy” and “funny”. So I wrote a landing page that was edgy and funny, pulling no punches about the type of communication and copyright law they practiced. It was a chuckle fest and a right cross to the jaw at the same time, which is what they specifically asked for. The only problem was that their definition of edgy and funny was actually…
We’re marginally less stuffy than our competition.

What they REALLY wanted was dry and informative with a bad lawyer pun mixed in here and there.

At Stickles & Pudney, you won’t OBJECT to the way we do things!

EDGY! My god boys, be careful or you’ll plunge into the canyon. We’ll sell you the whole seat but you’ll only need STICKLES & PUDNEY!

Anyway, that’s why it’s always a good idea to ask about tone.

3) What is your intended audience?

This question basically acts as a follow up to question #2. Knowing the audience your client is attempting to reach will help with lots of things that simply knowing the tone and the objective won’t. For instance, if you find out the audience happens to be rabid football fans, you won’t have to explain terms like “the line of scrimmage” or “pass interference.” But if the client wants to market to casual football fans who might only watch once a month at their brother’s barbecue, then those terms might be too specific and require an explanation if you even use them at all. You have to approach the project differently.

As an example of targeting a specific audience, watch any commercial intended for the elderly. Apparently there’s research out there that suggests your script must contain older Americans carefully explaining all sides of their particular situation to their family around a dinner table.
You’ll need dialogue like this.

“Wow, this pot roast is delicious, Linda. I’m so glad you’re all here for my 71st birthday party.”

“Dad, what were you saying about your condition as we were outside shooting hoops with the grandkids?”

“Ah yes, as most of you know, I have a condition called fumplydosis, which is a rare and sometimes fatal thinning of the nipples caused by years of listening to funk music at high altitudes. I’m treating it, although rare but serious side effects of my medication include tooth decay, clubfoot, and a severe aversion to certain parts of your own garage.”

“Wow, dad, in that case, you’d better make sure your life insurance policy is up to date.”

“I know, but how can I be certain my plan covers my condition?”

“Well I heard about a low cost life insurance plan through Mutual of Pennsyltucky that provides $50,000 of coverage for only $17.42 a month.”

“17.42 a month, huh? Are there any other options?”

“Sure there are. I’ll list the nineteen I know right now along with all the pros and cons while the audience is desperately waiting for overtime to start.”

“Boy, that’s a relief. I didn’t want all of you to worry so much about my final expenses.”

And who’s with me about “my final expenses” being under-the-radar creepy as a phrase. If it’s not the number one sneaky creepy phrase in America today, it’s squarely in the running. Anyway, on to question #4.

4) This is what I understand the project to be. Are we on the same page here?

This might actually be the most vital question of all because it lets you convey what you’ve heard. This question will allow the client to hear a summary of what information they’ve actually given you. Often times in meetings, people will forget stuff. Important stuff. They’re not doing it maliciously, it’s just that they’ve got a billion things to think about and one of the most important things they needed to tell you happened to slip their mind.

“So what I’m hearing is that your overall objective with this marketing campaign is to let people know about Mutual of Pennsyltucky’s low cost life insurance coverage, the audience we’re targeting is Americans over 65 and the tone of the project will be total information overkill. Do I have this right?”

“Oh no, I forgot to tell you that we also sell flavored oatmeal. We need to work that in there as well. For $17.42 a month you get life insurance and a box of flavored oatmeal shipped to your front door.”

“Ok. Well good to know. Tell me more about this oatmeal and why it’s linked to your insurance policies.”

It’s good for the client to hear what they’ve actually articulated – otherwise you might be halfway through the project already when they throw something insane like flavored oatmeal at you. And that’s not something you can easily just squeeze in. You now need to put in more work. The price goes up. The client gets cranky. Which leads to more work. And so on and so forth. It’s easier just to ask them if your grasp of the project is correct at the beginning.

So there you go – four questions that will really come in handy when working with vague clients. Whoops, actually, I thought of a fifth.

5) What’s the raunchiest thing you’ve ever said to a bus driver?

Nope, nope, sorry. That one was useless. Only use the first four.

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Suppose vs. Supposed

Posted by on Jan 17, 2014 in Business Writing | 0 comments

If you’re ever not quite sure where to look for terrible grammar examples for your blog that features examples of terrible grammar, just go to any sports website and scroll down toward the burning muck that they call “the message boards.” Not only can you have a great laugh at the dregs of society lobbing hideously misinformed opinions back and forth in ALL CAPS, but you’ll also be privy to all sorts of incredible language mangling.

Some of the mangles and misspellings are so insane that there’s no reason to mention them – like the one guy in a Sixers cap furiously typing away about how much HE HATE HIM SOME BAWSTUN SELTIKS!!!!!!! Occasionally, however, the mistakes are actually applicable to the world outside of mommy’s basement as well. Take this one for example…

“I don’t care how hurt you are, if we’re paying you 15 million dollars, you’re suppose to make the damn tackle!”

With that in mind, here’s a little quiz. Which one is correct?

Eh) “We were suppose to go to the beach, but it started to rain.”
Bee) “We were supposed to go to the beach, but it started to rain.”

The answer of course is answer Bee. (I apologize. I let a Canadian entomologist type those) I’m pretty sure the reason people consistently get this one wrong is because the “D” sound at the end of “supposed” is immediately followed by the hard “T” sound at the beginning of “to.” When you’re saying it out loud, in almost any accent, the “D” gets completely lost. And if it doesn’t get lost, you’re probably boring people to death with the pace of the conversation. When spoken aloud, “supposed to,” really does sound like “suppose to.” But just remember, even though you’re hearing “suppose to” in your head, the “d” has just sort of blended itself into the “t.” Basically, the “d” at the end of “supposed” is like that friend you had in college who was awesome until they met someone sort of covertly manipulative at a tiki bar one night and your next real conversation with them came years later after their inevitable divorce.

The “d’ and the “t” are in love. It’s complicated and you just don’t understand!

Anyway, if you’re unsure, just remember that the word “supposed” and the word “expected” are almost always interchangeable in these cases.

“We were supposed to go to the beach, but it started to rain.”
“We expected to go to the beach, but it started to rain.”

Using “suppose” would be like saying, “We expect to go to the beach, but it started to rain.” In that instance, congratulations on creating your own time warp. Although, condolences about being ripped apart by the black hole you created.

Going back to our original example provides another good look at how the two words can often be swapped.

“I don’t care how hurt you are, if we’re paying you 15 million dollars, you’re expected to make the damn tackle.”

See, interchangeable.

The word “suppose” is for situations where you’re trying to convey uncertainty …

“Yeah, I suppose Cleveland could one day win the Super Bowl.”

Or a proposed situation…

“Suppose for a second I ran off to Vegas with your mom.”

Although, as we all know, the proposed situation usually ends up being a situation that already happened. There’s a 92% chance the person proposing the situation has already run off to Vegas with your mom and they’re simply trying to gauge how you’re going to react when you inevitably find out. Which will probably go something like this…

“Suppose I punched you straight in the teeth.”

So that’s it. Follow those easy tips and next time you’re slamming your general manager or star linebacker on some website, at least your grammar won’t be as crappy as your opinions.

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Happy New Year from Grandpa Hank!

Posted by on Jan 1, 2014 in Business Writing | 0 comments

As a thank you gift to all of you who decided to sit down and read the silly junk I decided to write about in 2013, here’s a FREE and incredibly timely writing tip from Grandpa Hank.

Wait, haven’t they all been free?

Why yes they have! And this one continues the wonderful and generous tradition we started way back in August.

Quick quiz. Which of the following is correct?

New Years Eve
New Year’s Eve

Congratulations! You’re right if you picked the correct answer!

And the correct answer is the one with the apostrophe.

The eve belongs to the forthcoming new year and thus requires the apostrophe. It isn’t any different than something like “Tuesday’s specials” or “Thanksgiving’s slate of football games.” This should also go without saying, but it applies to New Year’s DAY as well.

New YEARS Eve would throw the world into utter chaos because it would somehow be the eve of multiple new years at the same time. No one would have any idea how old they were or what they had scheduled for the following weekend. Are your vehicle tags expired or not? Are your pants still fashionable? It would be a damn nightmare.

To be honest, this is one of the most common mistakes you can possibly make. In fact, it’s so common that it’s likely that no one will even notice. For instance, with a quick Google search of “New Year’s Eve” in my hometown, the first fifty results only yielded a 76% success rate. Nearly one in four major websites got it wrong. (By the way, this includes the event calendars for BOTH our major newspapers) Great job, guys!

So anyway, that’s my FREE tip of the day that comes as AT ABSOLUTELY NO COST TO YOU! Also, Happy New Year. Here’s hoping all of our readers have a wonderful and mistake free 2014.

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The Shape of the Juice – A Marketing Nightmare

Posted by on Dec 23, 2013 in Kel's Corner | 0 comments

While reading Cramer’s blog post Collaborative Writing – The Shape of the Juice, I felt a small ball of stress developing in my lungs. I really liked the article. He had great points for helping other writers who might need to collaborate and I was having a smooth and happy day prior to reading – so where was this ball of stress coming from?

As I reflected, it dawned on me that I’ve experienced the dreaded “Shape of the Juice” more times than I’d like to discuss. Just the very thought of it gave me anxiety. The difference from a marketing standpoint was that in most cases this ridiculous request came from a paying client. And this was typically a client who very strongly wanted to sell their product, service, or institution in the most nonsensical way possible. Eep! What to do?

This type of dreaded nemesis client should have a different name. In fact, I’m just going to call them nemesis clients. They’re the type of client whose emails cause your computer itself to shudder in fear. Just setting eyes on their name causes the lights in your room to dim. And even though they initially appear quite pleasant, you swear there’s a little bit of demon in their voice. You are fairly certain they were put on this earth to ruin your day. This is the type of person that makes you want to do flips of joy when you actually get a client who says something like, “You’re the expert, what do you think would be the best plan of action?” But I digress.

After years of dealing with nemesis clients, I’ve learned a few tricks you can use to help your project turn out well, ensure the client’s happiness, and actually keep yourself sane. Say for example your client comes at you with this little nugget of joy…

“Kel, we really feel that the biggest selling point of our juice is its shape. The flavor is like a five-star meal exploded onto your palette. It basically heals your cells from the inside out ensuring you’ll never develop any type of cancer and after you drink it for a week, you’ll actually become bilingual in the language of your choice. But never mind all that. What we feel really sets us apart from our competition is the SHAPE of our juice.”

1) Listen.

“Ok, I hear you. Sounds like your product has a lot to offer. Tell me more.”

During your first meeting or phone call, do as much listening as you can with as little negativity toward their idea as possible. In fact, be excited – not about their idea exactly, but about what you are helping them try to sell. The more you listen, the more you will start to understand what they should actually be doing to sell their product. With this information you can start to nudge them and their campaign in the right direction.

2) Ask Why.
“So with all those incredible benefits, it’s really interesting to me that you want to focus on the shape. Especially since your product is a liquid. What makes you feel this is the direction you want to go?”

There are two types of responses you’re going to get here. One is going to be something just as absurd as their original pitch and will make you want to die a little inside. It will start out with the nemesis client saying “I saw” or “I heard about” or something along those lines. In this case you’re dealing with a client who was most likely out drinking with their coworkers when they saw a random infomercial or hilarious YouTube video. “Oh man, our product (service/institution) would work perfectly in this exact scenario! We’ll go viral! People will love us! We’ll make MILLIONS!”

The second type of response will be more along the lines of, “After doing some market research we found customers really care most about the shape of juice rather than the benefits of the product itself,” or “Our biggest competitor launched a campaign about their juice shape and it doubled their sales.”

Both responses will give you valuable information about your client, what they want, and how far you’ll be able to push them toward a better idea.

3) Never initially tell them that their idea is awful or impossible (even if you make it sound really nice).
“There are definitely some things we can work with here.”

At this point in your meeting you’d love to say, “This is a really fun idea, but from a customer standpoint, I’m just not sure it’s the best direction for your product.” With certain nemesis clients, this is also the point where you’ll want to flat out call them a moron. But instead, hold your damn tongue and bitch about them at happy hour. Unfortunately, the only thing that will come of you outright telling them their idea is lame is that they will hold onto it even harder and likely make it worse.

4) Adjust.
“The headline will read, Shape Up Your Life With Juice!
“We’ll start the video with a close up of the juice, panning up to show it in all its shapely glory.”
“Your spokeswoman will have the same blob-like shape as the juice.”
“We’ll run a Show Us Your Favorite Juice Shape Facebook game.”

Thankfully bad ideas from nemesis clients are often quite vague. This will give you the latitude to get creative. Rather than trying to make the entire project about the juice’s shape, use it as an element within the whole. When explaining the idea to your client, focus on this element in small ways throughout your pitch. It will help the client feel like they were heard and that they’ve added something essential. Hopefully they will be so blown away by the overall awesomeness of your idea that they won’t even notice that the “shape” is not the central focus of the campaign and may, at this point, suggest dropping it all together.

5) Make your ideas their ideas.
“When we spoke on the phone last week what you said about your dog now being bilingual really got me thinking…”

And then go on to give your pitch. This is where you will use all the information you gathered in the first two steps. Somewhere in your conversation with your client, they likely gave you some really incredible information about their product. While you may not be bringing them exactly what they requested, you’re still bringing them something that they can feel was their idea.

Remember that a lot of nemesis clients who are paying you to do something creative for their company have hired you for a reason. It’s because they lack those creative genes themselves. Many of them simply want to feel like they’re a part of all the great creative action. Remember this as you work with them. It’s likely just a job for you, but for them it’s time away from the mundane everydayness of what they do for a living.

6) If all else fails make the best of it.
“So the Shape of the Juice it is then! Forward march!”

Occasionally there will be a client who can’t see past the outright stupidity of their idea. OR you might just be too jaded to see the potential of the idea itself. Yes, I said it. The stupid one might be YOU! Just because the idea sounds crazy, looks crazy, and feels crazy doesn’t mean it is. It truly might be the next big thing. It might even turn out to be one of your favorite projects because you get to venture outside your comfort zone in an attempt to make something work that has absolutely no business being a success. You actually get to be CHALLENGED! Eep!!! How exciting!

Then again it really might just be an awful idea. If this is the case do the best you can. In the end, as long as your client is happy, it doesn’t really matter. You’ve given them options, you’ve shown them better ideas, and if they reject them all, they still give you money when it’s all done. End of transaction.

I hope these few tips help you with your own nemesis clients. In the end you’ll end up with one of two things- a project that ended up being really fun and challenging, or a ridiculous story to use in your own blog someday.

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Business Writing – Brochures for the End Times

Posted by on Dec 12, 2013 in Business Writing | 0 comments

If I hadn’t gotten hungry just outside of Beckley, West Virginia last year, I would’ve never known the rapture was at hand. I was returning from a film shoot in Atlanta with the director and the executive producer when we pulled into a Wendy’s and ordered, for the sake of brevity, what I’ll call food. It had been a few hours since we last stopped, so I decided a bathroom break was in order. As I washed my hands in preparation to head back into the restaurant, I looked down at the sink. And there beside some water droplets and soap residue was Satan.

He was staring back at me as a creepy pencil sketch with giant horns, a surprisingly stylish beard, and the pecs of a bodybuilder. He held a blood covered sword above a pile of mutilated bodies and looked quite satisfied with all he’d accomplished that day. Also, for some reason he had a stomach rocker tattoo that said “MasterCard.” There was a factory in the background and some old World War II bombers overhead and people in gas masks and stuff. The sheer beauty of it defies words.

And the text – wow, the text. It sure let you know the horrors that awaited the world somewhere on the other side of your Frosty.

“Satan will use credit cards to enslave the people and this is ALREADY HAPPENING followed by YEARS of TORTURE and DESPAIR! The Pope will REVEAL his TRUE INTENTIONS by running over CHILDREN with a TRACTOR! CAPITAL LETTERS will FALL FROM THE SKY and goats will run around like TOTAL JAGOFFS! The END TIMES ARE NEAR!”

I only mention this brochure because it accomplished nearly everything it set out to do. It was memorable, encouraged me to read on, and actually got me to retain it as I passed multiple trash receptacles. Although its main objective – getting me to fear the rapture so much that I immediately raced to some local hillbilly church to repent wasn’t achieved, it was still a nice effort that needs to be applauded.

That said, if you’re writing the text of a brochure for your product or event, the rapture brochure is a fantastic example of things to avoid at all costs. For instance, describing exactly how nonbelievers will be beheaded and tossed into a giant post-apocalyptic scrap heap probably won’t help get kids to your lacrosse camp. And a more applicable lesson here is that neither will all the capital letters and EXCLAMATION POINTS!

Writing a brochure is actually much tougher than you’d think. Why? Because initially, it seems like you have to cram a hell of a lot of information into a very tiny space. But guess what? The great thing is you don’t actually have to cram a lot of information into a tiny little space. You only have to place a minimum amount of carefully selected information in what becomes a lot more space than you imagined.

Most brochures are going to come in three different but similar forms. If you really examine any brochures you might have lying around, you’ll notice that most of them have one, two, or sometimes three folds. In essence, this gives you four, six, or eight surfaces on which to place information. In reality, though, you should reasonably expect to eliminate one of those surfaces for text because the cover should be a big, colorful, shiny picture with a logo and a tagline at most. The cover flap should visually encourage the potential reader to open the brochure and glance inside.

The best thing about brochures is that the text itself always takes a huge backseat to the pictures. And there should be a picture or two on each flap – photos of people using your product, scenes of happy, smiling kids attending your event, random puppies, etc.

In general, a good rule is that if you have five flaps at your disposal, you’ll want to narrow your focus down to five things you really want to highlight about your product or event. Then devote one flap to each bit of information. The folds themselves make clear lines of delineation between ideas, so use them to do just that.

Remember, you’re not writing a novel. You’re trying to encourage curiosity. The whole idea of a brochure is to get people to explore further – visit your website, wander into your shop, ask others about their impressions, etc. If the brochure piques their interest, they’ll get their secondary information through other channels.

With that said, here’s a broad template of what you’ll want to attempt on a typical six-flap brochure.

Page 1) (Cover) This is where you put your best photo, your logo, and your tag line. Or if you place terrifying brochures in Wendy’s bathrooms around Beckley, West Virginia, this is where your sketch of the devil committing genocide goes.

Page 2) (Back of the cover) This is where you give a brief introduction about the history of your product or service. At United Church of Friends, we’ve been preparing sinners for the rapture since 1948. Our founder, Josiah Nuttlesjobber had a dream….

Page 3) (Front middle) People have a tendency to stare at this particular flap because it’s centrally located when they open the brochure. Consequently, there should be another awesome picture along with some very specific information. This is the “What we do,” and “What we believe,” section. United Church of Friends believes we’re ALL GOING TO DIE A HORRIBLE DEATH SOON AT THE HANDS OF PURE EVIL! Why do we believe this? The signs are everywhere…..

Page 4) (Front right) This is a great place for bullet points as to why people should explore further.
Why should you repent at United Church of Friends?
• Because if you don’t, Satan is coming to chop off your head.
• The unrepentant will go straight to hell and get their heads chopped off THREE MORE TIMES!
• 666!
• Credits cards are bad.

Page 5) (Inside tuck. Reverse of page 4) This flap is a great place for testimonials, quotes, etc. “Before I came into Wendy’s, I had no idea the Pope was an agent of the devil. I’m talking about the tractor thing. Now I know. Also, I’m saved,” – Dennis: Blumperton, Ohio

Page 6) Back flap. This is the place to wrap everything up. Make sure that people know exactly where they can go to get more information. Put your website, address, phone number, a tiny location map, etc. here. Remember that anyone who sets the brochure upside down is going to see this particular flap, so make it visually interesting as well. For more information, run, don’t walk to United Church of Friends, 196 Hollersville Road, Bump Notch, West Virginia! From I-77, just take Route 14 south to the Dairy Queen and turn left. We’re just past Trevor’s old meth lab. United Church of Friends – Don’t fear the rapture. We make it easy to repent!

Anyway, that’s a very quick and easy outline. The big key is to remember that you probably need about 80% less information than you think you do. Less information with a clear objective is always preferable to lots of ridiculous jumble. The more pictures and white space on each flap, the better it’s going to look and the more likely people are going to be to read it. It doesn’t matter how much great material you’ve managed to shove in there if people discard it immediately on fear that it’s a Steinbeck novel in disguise.

I’d write more but I’m pretty sure the apocalypse is happening outside and I’d better get to the repent… wait, nope. Nope. That was just some stray cats in the alley. Sorry for the false alarm.

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