5 Simple Copywriting Rules for Non-Writers

In my career, I’ve learned there are two types of people in the business world – those who hate writing, and crazy people. Since I spend a significant amount of time writing for companies, I guess I fall in the latter category.

I love to analyze the differing styles of writers, and the ways they work with their words in order to make a good story great. It’s essentially my version of competitive research. I especially enjoy reading articles from writers who can engage readers without clickbait headlines such as, “5 Simple Copywriting Rules for Non-Writers.”

So this seems like a good time to share a few tips aimed at those of you who hate writing, but can’t escape doing it.

  1. You have three seconds to earn a reader’s attention so they’ll read for 30 more: If you have never had to write a sentence for a living, you probably didn’t even bother to click on the title of this article in your feed. That’s fine. You’re not my audience. But if you clicked on this link, I had about 30 seconds in the first three paragraphs to hook you into the meat of the story. If you’ve gotten down here to the bullets, I estimate I now have earned about three more minutes of your time. I’ll try to make it worth it.
  2. Never use an Exclamation Point: Exclamation Points are the lazy writer’s way to show importance about something. If you can’t make a sentence interesting enough to stand on its own, rewrite the sentence. When you are talking to someone in a meeting, do you suddenly shout at them? Of course not. No exclamation points. Ever. Got it? If you have to change the way you type to make sure “Shift-1” is harder to reach, you should do so.
  3. There is no such thing as, “very unique”: “Unique” is defined as, “Being the only one of its kind; unlike anything else.” When something is “one of a kind,” it can’t be “very one of a kind.” Don’t exaggerate for exaggeration’s sake.
  4. There’s a difference between who and that: There are many times when a person who ((not that)) has a lot of subject matter expertise, can present information on a blog that ((not who)) has readers who ((not that)) will benefit from it. Understand that “who” is for people and “that” is for things.
  5. Never use the same word twice in a sentence: This is a tough one for many companies, especially those that have precious few adjectives to describe their product’s features and benefits. Just be conscious that when you are producing content for your web properties, you should be able to write the content in a way that the content doesn’t require the same word multiple times.

Writing can be a difficult game, but you should never fear it. A bad writer with great ideas is still more interesting to read than someone who is grammatically correct in their description of paint drying.

Was this useful? Kind of useful? Useless? I’d love to hear your own writing tips and tricks, as well as any grammar and punctuation rules that I’ve violated in this article.

What I Learned – Playing Putt-Putt with Chad Marshall

(This post is part of the continuing series called, “What I Learned.” In this series, I keep track of things that sparked my brain during different events and experiences.)

I’ve long said that the Seattle Sounders do more smart things for their fans and supporters than any team I’ve ever run across. Last week, they held a small event, hosting a pub night at a local bar near the stadium. The bar features a 9 hole indoor putt-pitt course, and as luck would have it, I got to play mini-golf with Sounders CB Chad Marshall and LM Aaron Kovar.

Both guys were great. Marshall was drinking a beer, and talking about golf and his 2 year old kid. Kovar is a friendly kid who looks like a guy you’d sit next to on a bus, going to his job at Amazon.
Of course, I didn’t think of anything really good to ask them until I was already home, but I did learn one thing. We talked a little about language barriers and how the team deals with that in training. Marshall admitted it’s a real problem for teams. Each team has interpreters on staff to translate what the coaches are saying in terms of strategy and game plans. But on the field for example, some players only speak Spanish, one only speaks French, and some – including the Goalkeeper – only speak English. So when a team is defending free kicks, basically the only words they can say to each other are “left, right, and back.”
My takeaway – whenever you see a goal scored from a free kick, especially if someone lost their mark, there was probably some sort of miscommunication between guys who speak different languages. I can only imagine what it must be like in Eurpoean leagues.

Some Fun Trivia to Celebrate Mariners Opening Day

It’s the home opener of our favorite hometown 9, the Seattle Mariners. So let’s take a nostalgic trip down memory lane and review some stats and trivia since the day the Mariners were bounced from the last playoff game in which they participated, October 22, 2001.

Things that did not exist the last time the Mariners were in the playoffs:

  • Xbox (launched 11/15/01), Century Link Field (2002), Facebook, Instagram, iPhone, Amazon Web Services, Seattle Sounders, Oklahoma City Thunder, Tesla, Uber, Snapchat, Link Light Rail.

Notable stats from October 2001:

  • U.S. President: George W Bush
  • 2001 U.S. House of Representatives: Democrats 213, Republicans 220
  • 2001 U.S. Senate: Democrats 50, Republicans 49, Independent 1
  • 2001 Seattle Mayor: Paul Schell through November, then Greg Nickels elected
  • 2001 Washington Governor: Gary Locke
  • 2002 Oscars (for movies produced in 2001):  Best Picture: A Beautiful Mind | Best Actor: Denzel Washington (Training Day) | Best Actress: Halle Berry (Monsters Ball)
  • Top 10 TV shows, 2001-2002 season: Friends, CSI, ER, Everybody Loves Raymond, Law & Order, Survivor, Monday Night Football, The West Wing, Will & Grace, Leap of Faith
  • 2002 Grammy Awards (for songs produced in 2001):  Song of the year: Fallin, by Alicia Keys | Record of the year: Walk On, by U2 | Album of the year: O Brother Where Art Thou Soundtrack
  • 10 Richest People in the World: Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Karl and Theo Albrecht, Paul Allen, Larry Ellis, 5 heirs to Sam Walton – Jim, John, Alice, S Robson, Helen

Sports Champions since the day the Mariners lost in 2001:

  • World Series winners: Arizona, Anaheim, Florida, Boston (3),  Chicago White Sox, St. Louis (2), Philadelphia, New York Yankees, San Francisco (3), Kansas City, Chicago Cubs.
  • Super Bowl winners: New England (5), Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh (2), Indianapolis, New York Giants (2), New Orleans, Green Bay, Baltimore, Seattle (YAY!), Denver
  • NBA Champions: Who cares, the league ceased existing to me in 2008.

Statistical Points of Interest:

  • Seattle Population:  2001 – 570k | 2013 – 652k
  • Cost of Super Bowl Ad: 2001 – $2.2 million  | 2017 –  $5.0 million
  • Internet Advertising Revenue: 2001 – $7.2 Billion | 2015 – $59.6 Billion

Ask a Performance Psychologist

A few months ago, I mentioned that my sister, Dr. Elizabeth Boyer, had launched Northwest Performance Psychology.

As you may imagine, the two of us tend to have a lot of spirited discussions about the differences between the theories of performance psychology and how they apply in high-pressure workplaces such as technology companies.

Well we’ve decided to expand the conversation. We’re going to start a little series where we look at topics relevant to high performing professionals, and have a little Q+A. I’ll ask most of the questions, but we also want to open it up to others.

So if you have questions about peak performance, business coaching, competitive environments or anything about performance psychology, feel free to email me. We’ll weave the the questions and answers together in a coherent way.

Looking forward to your questions.

A Few Thoughts About Sigi Schmid

It’s the end of an era. Quite literally.

The Seattle Sounders have only known one head coach in all their days. Through 250 MLS matches, a host of playoff games and some lengthy runs through the U.S. Open Cup and Champions League, Sigi Schmid has been the only man driving the bus. And now that ride has ended.

While Sigi was alone in compiling 115 wins, 69 losses and 66 draws from 2009-1016, the Seattle Mariners are now on a 5th manager to pull them out of their 573-660 streak.

Sigi will get criticism for not winning the MLS Cup, a compliant that seemed to heat up after the Seahawks got their ring three Super Bowls ago. And the cry of, “Well we’re still an expansion team” fell on deaf ears as soon as the hatred Portland Timbers raised the cup ahead of the Sounders. At that point, the knives were out.

But Is 2016 Sigi’s Fault?

The Sounders had a run of bad luck last year that stretched them thin, so they stocked up on some guys who were supposed to plug the holes and then provide depth in 2016. At this time this year, here is what the Sounders lineup was “supposed” to look like:

Forwards: Starters: Obafemi Martins, Dempsey, Valdez. Bench: Jordan Morris.
Mids: Alonso, Evans, Ivanschitz. Bench: Kovar, Roldan, Friberg.
Def: Mears, Torres, Marshall, Jones. Bench: Scott, Remick.

Instead, Torres is hurt and Martins is sitting on a bench in China. Dempsey missed a month on National team duty. The Sounders were trotting out a lineup of role players and hoping Jordan Morris could dramatically exceed any reasonable expectation of a rookie. Evans got shoved back to defense and couldn’t contribute on offense. When Dempsey was here, he had no one to pass to. The team was so slow that defenses could push high up the field and pressure guys like Scott into turning it over in front of goal.

A lot of things went wrong this year, and I’m not sure if any coach could make that lineup work. The Sigi detractors have a fair point – that with the players we ended up with, he stubbornly stuck to a formation that didn’t seem to fit them. It’s really a double edged sword. If he was switching formations every few games (the way we all would playing FIFA on XBox) and it didn’t work, we’d be yelling about that.

And so that leaves Sounderland in a little bit of a quandary. Sigi was “our guy” from the get go. Adrian is “our guy.” GM Garth Lagerway is a Real Salt Lake guy. “Our guy” took a fall because the coaching staff and management team couldn’t get results in 2016 with the product they put together. Now we have to trust in Lagerway to find the right players and the right coach.

I’ll miss Sigi. I’ll miss wondering how a guy who spends every day on a soccer field and eating meals specially prepared by a scientific driven training team could possibly weigh in at 3 bills. I’ll miss standing behind the bench trying to figure out what crazy substitution is coming next.

But this is a reminder that nothing lasts forever. The storybook start to the Sounders franchise, with Sigi leading us to a 3-1 win over New York, still hasn’t had the magical payoff moment we’ve been waiting for. I hope it comes soon enough that Schmid’s fingerprints are still on the team. I hope we get to see Brad Evans and Ozzie Alonso lift a cup and we can remember Sigi’s original influence.

So long sir. I feel lucky that we had you take the reins at the beginning and lead us to where we are today. Best of luck in whatever challenge you take on next.

Check Out This Sneaky Amazon Product Placement

Q: If you are a TV show on the bubble between renewal and cancellation, what’s the best way to make the bosses happy?
A: Make them more money.

Undateable will never win an Emmy. It’s niche is that in its 3rd season (and basically out of desperation due to being moved to the Friday night dustbin), it decided to shoot every episode live. The result is a hyped up Friday night live studio audience that contributes to a show that is part script / part improv.

BUT… that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be back for Season 4. So the show needs an extra revenue source on top of the normal :30 spots to secure its place in the Fall lineup.

Enter Amazon, in what is one of the sneakiest product placement deals I can imagine. Remember, subliminal advertising is illegal. But subliminal product placement apparently is not. I counted about four different camera angles in two different scenes where the logo is visible. I’m going to estimate the logo got about 60-120 seconds of airtime. How much do you think that subliminal product placement is worth? More or less than a :30 spot?

Can you spot it?

Undateable and Amazon 1

Undateable and Amazon 2

Undateable and Amazon 3

Undateable and Amazon 4

Undateable and Amazon 5

Imagining Presidential Candidates as League Commissioners

I don’t know what made me think about this, but indulge me if you will. If you took the remaining Presidential candidates and put them in charge of the sports leagues, which ones would they run? Here’s my proposal.

1) MLS
Let’s start with the easiest one first. Major League Soccer is by definition a socialist endeavor. The league revenues are split, the labor force has few rights for negotiating wages, and all transactions must go through the league office. This is Bernie Sanders’ league, plain and simple.

2) NFL
The country’s most powerful league is going to need a member of the establishment to carry out its charter. Someone who knows everyone on Wall Street as well as the rest of the Billionaire owners. They must have political clout to wield or they’ll be a lame duck. But also, the NFL needs someone who can deflect controversy, pretend things that are happening aren’t actually happening, and show a strong willingness to tiptoe on the wrong side of the rules. I think the NFL goes to Hillary Clinton.

3) MLB
This league is much harder to determine a proper commissioner for. Its leader must have the clout to appease 30 billionaire owners, manage municipalities to get stadiums built, and negotiate billion dollar TV deals, all while presiding over a sport that is losing its appeal to much of America. In some ways, to some people, MLB has become somewhat a relic of days gone by. A memory of what once was, rather than what will be. And with that in mind, I hand the keys to Jeb Bush.

4) NBA
Another tough decision. We’re looking for someone who can see the international picture while not overlooking the inner cities. Someone who can manage across different cultures. But also someone who can simply step into the shoes of his mentor and merely continue to operate the machine rather than create a new one from scratch. I think this role is given to Marco Rubio.

5) NHL
Here we have a league that not enough people get excited about. It rarely registers on your sports mind, even though the few times you pay attention to it, you find it quite enjoyable. It is the epitome of being John Kasich.

With this organization, we’re looking for a few key qualities. This leader must be fairly tone deaf to the cries from its labor force who want to be paid. The leader must embrace the idea of the 1% receiving all of the money, and have strong convictions about who should be let into the system. Plus this leader must be stubborn, resistant to the opinion of others, and able to hold true to their beliefs. I believe Ted Cruz is our answer here.

7) WWE
Come on, is this one really that hard? There’s only one Presidential candidate capable of running the circus that is Worldwide Wrestling. The one and only, Donald Trump.

Have I missed a league that needs a Presidential candidate as a commissioner? Let me know.

The New 4 C’s of Marketing

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about marketing topics, and reading conflicting arguments on whether “Content Marketing” is dead. After listening to both sides of the debate, I think I’ve landed on the position that “Content Marketing” IS “Marketing” in 2016.

Everything from lead generation to sales tools are now dependent on a solid content strategy. So I put forth the new “4 C’s of Marketing.” Everything you do today needs the following attributes.

1) Consistent
In early meetings with clients, I like to advise them to look at the masters of content when coming up with their content development model. Sunday football games are always at 10:00am and 1:25pm Pacific time. Movies always come out on Fridays. Music always drops on Tuesdays. TV shows are scheduled for a certain day and time all season long. Magazines get delivered on the same day each week. Etc…. This is because the most experienced marketers of content in the history of the world know that people have rhythms and habits. They demand some predictability in return for their attention. They appreciate you providing them content, but they won’t search for it, or be happy if it doesn’t show up. Imagine waking up one Sunday morning in October, flipping to CBS or FOX, and finding the NFL got a little busy and moved all the games to Tuesday. It doesn’t work like that. Build an editorial calendar and figure out when you’ll be publishing in each channel.

2) Concise
You have A LOT to say. And it’s all VERY IMPORTANT. Now cut that down to 25%. I’ve become a believer in the 3-30-3 rule. You get 3 seconds to hook someone and earn another 30. In that 30 seconds, you need to pique their curiosity enough to earn their next 3 minutes. And in that 3 minutes, you’re giving them the pitch to earn their email address or whatever you are trying to get from them. But that message up front needs to get across quick.

3) Compelling
Yes, even your company has something interesting to say or a unique way to say it. You cannot just publish a recipe for Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches and expect an audience. Put on your creative hat and come up with something good. You have a lot of smart people in your org with even more interesting opinions. Find them.

4) Convertible
To the pessimist, the amount of channels in which you need to produce content is terrifying. To the opportunist, it’s a dream come true. All of your content should e specifically tailored to the channel, but it also should be easily transformed. One well-written, long form blog post can also be your email newsletter content, a Powerpoint presentation for Slideshare, a series of soundbites for Twitter, at least a few Facebook posts, a conversation for Blab, and a YouTube video.

Let me know what you think.

Join me at the Seattle Interactive Conference November 3

Over the last few years, I’ve had a few amazing chances to get in front of a large audience and either speak on, or moderate panels full of smart people. In about two weeks, I’ll get the opportunity to moderate a panel at one of my favorite events – the Seattle Interactive Conference.

The panel is focused on the changing role of online advertising. Here’s the description:

Game of Screens: The Rise of Multi-Screen Marketing
The rapid evolution of consumer behavior as it relates to their media consumption has rendered many of advertising’s traditional targeting and measurement metrics difficult or obsolete. So how do you accurately measure results when Device proliferation is making even basic reach and frequency management nearly impossible? How can you balance the new expectations amongst consumers that messaging to them should always be relevant and timely? And what are some recent technology advancements in targeting and measurement to help address some of these challenges? In this panel, executives from Choicestream, GoDaddy, Logitech and Sharethrough will share their experience and expertise in delivering successful behavior-driven marketing to consumers who live on multiple screens.

The panel will be on Nov 3 at 11:00am. If you’re attending the event, please come on by and check out our session. And if you have questions you want answered, shoot me an email and I’ll add them into the queue.

I’ve Become One of “Those” People, and You Guys Can’t Drive

I like to think that at my advanced age, I have the ability to shift opinions. To change my mind. To “evolve,” as it were.

For years, I did not understand the concept of riding a bike to work. I found it non-sensical. Foolish and childish even.

But then about 3-4 weeks ago my doctor explained some things that were going to happen to me in the coming years if I did not lose a fairly significant amount of weight. And he wasn’t saying things like, “Wow you are going to feel great!”

So I left his office, went to the bike store, and bought myself a new way to commute to the office. I’m now one of “those people” who are in the way when you are driving to work.

What I’ve learned

Now I’m in no way an expert yet. I’ve maybe done the Wallingford to Downtown Cannonball Run about 8-10 times. But here are some initial impressions.

1) You people can’t drive. I never noticed it before, but there really is no consistency from one driver to another. You make crazy left turns out of nowhere, pull over in bike lanes (it doesn’t matter if your hazards are on, I still can’t jump over you), block interceptions at red lights, and nose your car out into the middle of the road. Bring on the driverless cars.
2) Texting and driving is seriously dangerous. There aren’t a lot of things a biker finds scarier than seeing someone in a car with their face buried in their cell phone. We have no idea where you are headed, if you see us, or what you are going to do.
3) We need more bike lanes. On my way in, I zip down Stone to 34th to Dexter to Bell to 2nd and it’s a breeze. On my way out of town, inexplicably you can’t head back UP 2nd very far. So I have to weave through buses, cars and/or pedestrians on 3rd and Blanchard to get back to a safe path.
4) Some bikers are really decent humans. Contrary to my previous belief about bikers being traffic-causing, egotistical, stubborn jerks, a lot of bikers are pretty nice. We usually end up in a nice little pack around stop lights. There’s safety in numbers and we’re all more visible when we’re traveling in a flock. Usually everyone is following traffic rules, being courteous to drivers, and being safe.
5) Some bikers are total jerks. Nothing is more frustrating to a rookie biker like me than seeing some yahoo zipping through traffic, slinging between lanes, ignoring street signs and signals, and generally creating chaos. For the record, I’m the guy following every rule, doing everything like you’d expect the guy on the bike to do. Bikers who flaunt the fact that they are on a bike scare me because they make you unpredictable.
6) The time is comparable. On an average day at rush hour, driving 6 miles downtown plus parking takes me about 25-30 minutes door to desk. On a bike, 30-35.

Ok, I’m a cheater
So here’s the thing. I’m not in good enough shape to get up Stone Way. And I don’t like the idea of being stuck at 8mph in traffic. So I bought an electric bike. I’m an absolute believer in these things.

The electric bike is great because you really only use it up hills, or if you need to maintain a consistent speed of 15-20 mph. You can shut it off if you’re by yourself and can go at your own pace. And maybe one day when I’m in better shape I’ll be able to keep it off altogether. But if you are considering becoming a bike commuter, look into the electric bike. It will help get you off the fence.

So there you go
So I’m a convert, at least when I can be. It’s still totally impractical for anyone who needs to wear a suit or pick up the kids after work. But there might be a good number of you who could pull it off.

And try that electric bike.