Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sell the story

While browsing the gift shop of a cultural heritage museum, I found more than a memento from my trip. I found some excellent advice for copywriters. 

I had asked the salesperson a question. The answer required a trip to the back room, which left me at the counter, waiting. I glanced around to pass the time and spied this note to the cashiers:

“Sell more than products; sell a story.”

People don’t walk into museums of Native American arts to buy woven rugs or pieces of pottery. They buy these things because they’ve learned something about the craft or the artist. They’ve listened to the story, and now the objects speak to them.

That’s a point worth remembering in today’s overcrowded marketing environment, where every touch point – in both real and virtual worlds – is another opportunity to make an impression…and a sale.

What I ended up buying at the gift shop was a small piece of folk art. Attached was a tag with a photo and brief description of the artist. This imbued the object with purpose and intent; it created an emotional connection with something that could easily have been just a knick-knack to remember my visit.

I left with both a meaningful memento and a useful reminder about the impact of storytelling. It’s a lesson that applies as much to a gift shop as to copywriting.

I may not be directly selling products, but I’m always selling ideas ... perceptions … reputations. Whether writing an annual report or a feature story for an employee magazine,  I will continue to look for stories that engage readers and create a connection.

I will tell the tale to make my point.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

You 2.0

The new normal for career paths seems to be one of continual growth and reinventing oneself.

A number of people I know have recently left traditional jobs, either by design, buyouts, early retirements, layoffs, or restructurings.

Even as they face a similar challenge in starting over, all are going about it in highly individual ways. Several have talked with me about Phase X of their careers, knowing I've made a go of freelance business writing after many years in the corporate ranks. I learn much more from them than they can possibly gain from hearing about how I set up shop in the dinosaur age, well before mobile and social everything.

Paul Wilke blasted out of the starting blocks in August, founding the strategic public relations firm Upright Position Communications.With feet-on-the-ground experience working on both US coasts and in Asia, Paul is focused on telling compelling stories, garnering on-message media coverage and providing sound strategic counsel.

 Previously, Paul held senior positions at Splunk (where he led communications around one of 2012’s most successful IPOs), Visa, Baldwin Boyle Shand Limited, Siemens, and Ronset (S) Pte. Ltd.

Anne Mueller has had a versatile career that evolved from a scientific background in chemistry and analytical spectroscopy to more applied disciplines in regulatory, corporate, and public affairs, R&D communications, and most recently, research ethics and science policy in a “big pharma” context. This summer, she started a management consultancy group in bioethics and science policy, Applied Bioethics Advisors. She is also a founding partner in the non-profit rScience Central, created to promote open innovation and sharing of pre-clinical research to accelerate the advancement of new medicines and therapies for unmet patient needs.

Jay Nachman established himself in public relations in Philadelphia, working for mission-driven organizations over the past two-plus decades. In planning the next chapter of his career, he is exploring ways to weave social media and new technology into his passions for writing and media relations. One of his latest articles is a humor piece, published in The Philadelphia Inquirer, about “tuning up” his job-search techniques.

It's clear that career paths today take many more turns than ever before. The ride can be a nail-biter at times, but new perspectives are always around the next corner, with interesting opportunities for those passionate about making things happen.