Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Ann Wylie Writing Coach Reving up the Readership

Wylie's Writing Tips

Dec. 5, 2007
Publisher: Ann Wylie,
Copyright Ann Wylie, 2007


"If it doesn't sell, it isn't creative."

-- David Ogilvy, "The Father of Advertising"

In this issue

* Quick tips: Try this recipe for creativity, stop information pollution, and become a headline ACE
* Is your press release spam? There's got to be a better way
* Book Ann now and save: Lock in this year's fees for next year's programs
* Check out Ann's touring schedule: Polish your skills when you catch Ann on the road
* Keep up with Ann's calendar: Find out when Ann's coming to your neighborhood


"Thanks to Sesame Street, people expect to be entertained while educated."

-- Scott McKain,
McKain Performance Group

Quick tips
Think inside the box

Try this recipe for creativity, stop information pollution, and become a headline ACE with these three tips from Rev Up Readership, Ann's premium toolbox for communicators:

Try this recipe for creativity

In 1999, Israeli researchers studied 200 ads that had been award winners or finalists in top advertising competitions. The researchers found that nearly nine in 10 of the ads could be classified into six templates.

Next, they studied 200 less successful ads -- those that had not earned awards. The researchers found that only 2.5 percent of those ads could be classified into templates.

"The surprising lesson of this story: Highly creative ads are more predictable than uncreative ones," write Chip Heath and Dan Heath in Made to Stick.

"It's like Tolstoy's quote: 'All happy families resemble each other, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.' All creative ads resemble one another, but each loser is uncreative in its own way."

=====>>> Tip: Next time you're developing a brochure, annual report or creative campaign, try the "consequences" technique.

For this approach, point out unexpected consequences of a product feature. A commercial for car loudspeakers, for instance, showed a bridge on the verge of collapse when the speakers of a car parked on it were turned way up.

To use this template, ask: "What's a key feature of our product or service? How can we exaggerate the consequences of using -- or failing to use -- this feature?"

Rev Up Readership Gold and Silver members, get the other five creative templates:

Not yet a Rev Up Readership member? Join now:


Sources: Jacob Goldenberg, David Mazursky and Sorin Solomon, "The Fundamental Templates of Quality Ads," Marketing Science 18 (1999), 333-51; Chip Heath and Dan Heath, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, Random House, 2007:

Stop information pollution

Information pollution -- what "king of usability" Jakob Nielsen describes as "excessive word count and worthless details" -- not only wastes time, it steals audience attention.

"Each little piece of useless chatter is relatively innocent, and only robs us of a few seconds," Nielsen says. "The cumulative effect, however, is much worse: we assume that most communication is equally useless and tune it out, thus missing important information that's sometimes embedded in the mess."

Nielsen's solution: Cut your copy in half. He cites studies that show that removing half the words from your Web copy can double the amount of information users actually get.

"Let's clean up our information environment," he says. "Are you saying something that benefits your customers, or simply spewing word count? If users don't need it, don't write it. Stop polluting now."

Rev Up Readership Gold and Silver members, learn more Web-writing techniques from Nielsen:

Rev Up Readership Gold members, find more ways to improve your Web writing:


Source: Jakob Nielsen, "Information Pollution," Alertbox, Aug. 11, 2003:

Become a headline ACE

What would your spouse, a classified ad or a joker in a bar say about your topic?

Make that comment your headline.

Many winners of the American Copy Editors Society's (ACES) 2006 Nationwide Headline Contest used this approach -- colloquial headlines -- for their award-winning heads.

For a photo package of elephants at a zoo, for instance, The Providence Journal's Peter Donahue channeled the classifieds:

Heavy-duty pickup, big trunk,
gray only, must see

When writing about a financial guide for newlyweds, Steve Byers of the Huntsville (Ala.) Times wrote:

No, sweetie, I distinctly said
'till debt do us part'

Just married? Then
take a vow to buy
this financial guide

Jeff Verbus of The Repository (Canton, Ohio) took a cue from the "where" element of his story to write this headline:

Didja hear 'bout
the deer that burst into a bar?

So what would someone say about your topic? That's your headline.

Rev Up Readership Gold and Silver members, learn more ways to write ACE headlines:

Rev Up Readership Gold members, find more ways to improve your headlines:


Source: American Copy Editors Society's (ACES) 2006 Nationwide Headline Contest:


"If nobody hears your strategic messaging, does it make a sound?"

-- David Murray,
Ragan Report

Cut Through the Clutter
How to make every piece you write
easier to read and understand

Is your copy easy to read?

According to communication experts, that's one of the two key questions people ask to determine whether to read a piece -- or whether to toss it. has more than 100 articles packed with tools, tips and formulas to help you write more clearly and concisely.

Plus, as a Gold member, you'll have access to more than 1,150 articles in total, all exhaustively indexed and easy to find, on Whether you're looking for headline help, an outline for your next story or world-class Websites to model, you'll find it on

Learn more:


"Does your writing read like Muzak when you wish your words would leap up and sing like Streisand?

"Every time I read 'Rev Up Readership' I turn to my computer with tangible tips that add energy to my writing. Ann's suggestions prompt new thought processes to ease the flow of writing. When I'm stumped, I pick up past copies and discover the solution I need -- plus something to fix what I hadn't realized wasn't working.

"The balance between concrete tools and renewed passion is the most valuable feature 'Rev Up Readership' offers."

-- Marj McKinty,
development director
Lincoln Medical Education Partnership

Is your press release spam?
There's got to be a better way

When a respected journalist posts the e-mail addresses of 329 PR pros on his blog and uses his spam filter to block their messages permanently, something's got to change.

"I've had it," says Chris Anderson, executive editor of Wired magazine, told The New York Times. "I get more than 300 e-mails a day and my problem isn't spam ... it's P.R. people."

The PR pros -- including folks from Edelman, Fleishman-Hillard, Ogilvy Mather Worldwide and Weber Shandwick -- will soon be getting unwanted e-mail themselves. That's because "spam bots" collect e-mail addresses from Websites like Anderson's blog.

Want to avoid this kind of response to your e-mailed releases? Here are three approaches to try:

1. Prune the list.

"The smart PR folks (the successful ones) struggle to make their lists smaller and smaller," writes Seth Godin on his blog. "The lazy ones just try to make them bigger."

2. Target individual journalists.

Instead of spraying buckshot, do your homework and target the right reporter, says Peter Shankman, author of Can We Do That?! Outrageous PR Stunts That Work.

"Don't want to do that?" he asks. "Get the h*ll out of my industry."

3. Distribute via RSS feed.

"I'm about to change my letter to PR people asking them not to send emails with their news," San Jose Mercury News tech columnist Dan Gillmor told participants in a Bulldog Reporter teleseminar.

"I think the press release page of a company's site should have its own RSS feed. PR people will have a better shot at having journalists like me read their headlines if they do this. … The beauty of RSS is that nobody can force an RSS feed down your throat."

Nearly four in 10 journalists already use RSS feeds to keep up with news, according to a new study by Bulldog Reporter and TEKgroup International.

It's gone too far, people

The problem of e-mailed releases does seem to have gotten out of hand.

The New York Times reports that even PR Watch gets unsolicited e-mailed releases.

"We are a watchdog organization whose sole purpose is to critique objectionable P.R. practices, and even we get spammed by P.R. people," Sheldon Rampton, editor of PR Watch, told the Times.

"Sometimes we get follow-up calls from them asking if we want to run their stories. We've developed a standard response, which is, 'We write about deceptive and unethical P.R. practices -- do you have a story for us?'"

Create releases that get the word out

Are you looking for more ways to make your media relations more effective?

If so, join Ann at PRSA's Jan. 24 teleseminar, "Anatomy of a News Release, Pitch and E-mailed Release."

You'll learn to test your own copy against our checklists to make sure it includes everything needed for optimum impact -- in the right order, using the most effective approach -- without including too much. You'll learn:

* How to use the six-word limit to make your e-mail pitch leads less irritating to editors and reporters

* The most common lead approach -- and why you should avoid it

* The one-foot rule for making your pitches more effective

* Why two heads are better than one -- and how to tap the power of communication layers in your next release

* How to avoid editors' pet peeves about e-mailed releases

You'll walk away with formats, do's and don'ts, and rules of thumb for effective PR writing based on the latest research. They didn't teach you this in PR 101!

Sign up or get more details:

Learn about Ann's other upcoming teleseminars:


Sources: Steve Kagan, "Things Turn Ugly in the 'Hacks vs. Flacks' War," The New York Times, Nov. 5, 2007:; Seth Godin, "PR and the first amendment and keeping your job," Seth Godin's Blog, Oct. 31, 2007:; "Is PR Email Dead?" Journalists Speak Out, July 7, 2004; Tonya Garcia, "Survey: More journalists consult online info," PR Week, Nov. 6, 2007:


"Doctors lose their licenses. Drunk drivers get cited in the local papers. Speeders get tickets. Wild pitchers get pulled from the baseball game. Pedophiles must post signs warning the public of their past crimes. Why shouldn't grossly careless or incompetent PR people be lined up, exposed, and punished, too?"

-- Brenda Clevenger, ABC,
co-founder of CornerBarPR

Book Ann now and save
Lock in this year's fees for next year's programs _____________________________________________

Because of increasing demand for my programs, I'll be increasing the fees for my writing workshops on Jan. 2. Now, for a limited time, you can lock in 2007 fees for 2008 programs.

To get this year's fees for next year's programs, you must complete booking (that is, get a signed contract and deposit to me) by Dec. 31. To book a program, contact me at:

Nothing but the truth
What people say about Ann's writing workshops _____________________________________________

"Valuable and relevant information fabulously delivered in an incredibly interesting way."

-- Tammy Flynn,
marketing specialist,
City of Hampton

Where in the world is Ann?
Cut your training costs when you piggyback your program _____________________________________________

Save money when you piggyback your workshop by scheduling it when Ann is already "in the neighborhood." Book your program the day before or after another organization's and split Ann's airfare and ground transportation with the other group.

Ask about piggybacking on Ann's upcoming engagements in:

* Boston: Dec. 10
* Chicago: March 7, May 8-9
* Cleveland: Dec. 19
* Dayton, Ohio: May 1
* Des Moines, Iowa: Feb. 27
* Kansas City, Mo.: Dec. 12
* Orange County, Calif.: Jan. 17
* Washington, D.C.: Feb. 15

Save even more: Ask about Ann's communication association discounts and second-day fee reductions.

Contact Ann to discuss piggybacking:

Ann's touring schedule
Polish your skills at one of these events _____________________________________________

Alas, Ann can't invite you to the in-house seminars she presents for private organizations. But everyone's invited to Ann's upcoming public seminars in:

* Boston on Dec. 10. "Writing That Sells," a one-day workshop for PRSA. Contact PRSA for details: or 212/460-1480

* Chicago on March 7. "Writing That Sells," a one-day workshop for PRSA. Contact PRSA for details: or 212/460-1480

* Chicago on May 9. "Beyond the Inverted Pyramid" and "Think Like a Reader," two sessions for Ragan's Corporate Communicators Conference. Watch this space for details:

* Dayton, on May 1: "Writing That Sells," a one-day workshop for Greater Dayton PRSA, IABC Dayton and the Greater Dayton Advertising Association. Contact Natasha Baker, APR, for details: 937/424-8950 x 2115

* Kansas City on Dec. 12. "Rev Up Readership," a luncheon keynote and half-day writing workshop for Kansas City IABC:

* Orange County on Jan. 17. "Writing That Sells," a one-day workshop for Orange County PRSA: Contact Katie Coates Ageson: 714/593-8874

* Washington, D.C., on Feb. 15. "Foolproof speechwriting: Master a simple structure that works for every speech," a one-day workshop for Ragan's Speechwriter's Conference:

Would you like to attend? Please contact meeting planners directly for details.

Can't make these events? If you'd like to bring an Ann Wylie workshop to your organization, contact her at

Keep up with Ann's calendar

Want to find out when Ann's coming to your neighborhood, learn when you can sign up for one of her programs and otherwise keep up with her calendar? Check out:

What are we up to?

The folks at Wylie Communications have been enjoying:

* Writing magazine and report copy for Northern Trust and Saint Luke's/Kansas City:

* Serving as creative consultants for marketing magazines and newsletters for Northern Trust and Saint Luke's/Kansas City:

* Presenting writing workshops for State Farm:

* Providing writing coaching to Nokia:

* Presenting teleseminars for PRSA:

For more info --

--- about Ann Wylie's seminars, publication consulting or writing and editing services, please contact Ann at or visit

Please forward this issue --

-- to two of your colleagues. They'll thank you -- and so will Ann!

About this newsletter

About This E-zine

Ann Wylie's Writing Tips is a whenever-Ann-sends-it e-zine for clients, colleagues and other friends who want to reach more readers or produce better publications and Websites.

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Ann Wylie's Writing Tips is copyright 2007 by Ann Wylie. All rights reserved.

Ann Wylie, Wylie Communications Inc., 4618 Warwick, Ste. 7A, Kansas City, MO, 64112

Wylie Communications Inc. Training / Writing and Editing / Publication Consulting
Connie Gotsch Host Write On Four Corners KSJE FM, Farmington NM Author two award winning novels Snap Me a Future and A Mouthful of Shell available

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